After a troubled record with minority customers, Airbnb has announced a partnership with one of the most active and well-known black celebrities. The hospitality tech company has partnered with actor and activist Danny Glover, who will serve as an adviser on engaging communities of color.
“The history of housing in America is a history of discrimination,” said Glover in a statement. “Even as people of color have made strides in countless other areas of American life, home ownership—and the intergenerational wealth that comes along with it—remains out of reach for far too many. Even Frederick Douglass, when buying his first home in 1892, noted the importance of home ownership in building community wealth for African Americans.”
Did Airbnb enlist Danny Glover because:
A) Airbnb wants you to know it’s not racist.
Maybe Airbnb is just trying to combat the truckload of negative press it has received. First there was the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack on social media that featured black people sharing allegations of Airbnb’s discrimination. Then there was the Harvard University report (pdf) that showed people with African-American names were 16 percent less likely to be accepted as an Airbnb guest. Don’t forget about the lady who said she was pushed down the stairs by an Airbnb host for being black. On top of that, another study by Murray Cox revealed how Airbnb was increasing gentrification in Brooklyn, N.Y.
B) Airbnb needs black hosts.
Black-owned sites like Innclusive have stepped into the home-sharing arena, decreasing Airbnb’s market share. While Airbnb’s customers who stay in New York City’s black areas have grown 78 percent, according to a 2016 study, most of the company’s hosts in those predominantly black areas are still white. Maybe they’re trying to reach those potential hosts before the black companies get them.
C) Airbnb needs some black friends.
The first chapter of the best-selling handbook How to Prove You’re Not Racist is titled “Get a Black Friend.” When this site did a story on Airbnb and gentrification, our inbox suddenly filled with angry emails from black hosts vouching for the company. I’m not saying that Airbnb sent out a black Bat Signal to its Negro partners, but ... OK, I am kinda saying it.
After charges of racism, the company recently enlisted academics, scholars and the whole-ass National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (even paying the NAACP 20 percent for every black host in a weird multilevel marketing scheme).
Plus, look at that picture of Glover. He’s wearing a Kangol, y’all! According to the conversion rate listed in the Official Negro Conversion Chart, having a black friend who wears a Kangol is equivalent to having 2.3 black friends.
D) Maybe the company means it.
Maybe Airbnb is legitimately serious about diversifying its company. Maybe the company really wants to open its business to make it inclusive for everyone. Who better to do this than Danny Glover? Glover has long been an outspoken activist for people of color, including the time he put the entire New York Taxi Commission on notice for refusing to serve black riders.
After all, how can we complain about these companies if we don’t seek to change them? Partners like Glover and the NAACP can add real insight that people inside the company might have overlooked or not noticed at all. Perhaps this is the actual goal of diversity—to include voices to make positive changes that will stop people of color from being excluded from opportunity.
In his statement, Glover added:
That is why I have started working with Airbnb and will be serving as an adviser for their efforts to engage communities of color, ensuring members of these communities are taking advantage of the economic opportunity of hosting on the Airbnb platform. I know Airbnb has had its own share of challenges in this arena—but working with them, I’ve seen first-hand how committed they are to getting it right. And I have been incredibly heartened to see the resources, desire, and drive they are directing towards ensuring that their service is used fairly and inclusively.
Actually, the answer is E) All of the above.
We would also have accepted “money” and “Why the hell do I care? I ain’t staying in someone’s house I don’t know, and I definitely ain’t letting strangers stay in mine.”
Thank you for playing.