My Father and Airbnb

For some reason my father hates Haitians. I don’t know why and don’t really care to delve too deeply into his reasoning, but Haitians really get under his skin. According to him, they stink. The food they cook stinks. And they get too “fucking familiar” when they shouldn’t. Unfortunate for him, he lives in a city that has a large population of Haitians, many of whom are employed as home health care workers.

A few years back, he when working at a construction site, there was an explosion beneath a scaffolding where he stood suspended. The blast ejected him several feet into the air and deposited him into the fiery blaze beneath him. His injuries were severe. Burns over a good portion of his body. A few broken ribs, a broken wrist and a completely shattered leg that the doctors thought initially would need amputation. Recovery included a several surgeries, a several month stay in the hospital, transference to a rehabilitation facility, and transition to his home with the aide of healthcare workers which proved to be a fiasco in itself . I can only empathize with the workers who were commissioned to see his recovery.

So here is my father, badly injured, in a lot of pain, and at the mercy of a healthcare worker who belongs to a culture he despises. All the ingredients for either a great comedy or a tragedy. Things would go fine for the first couple of days when an aide was sent to his home. And then for reasons that I’d probably not give a hoot about, the unsuspecting Haitian would offend him and he’d ultimately fire the poor soul who had unsuspectingly walked into this unwinnable trap.

This went on for several weeks. The home healthcare agency would send an aide and by the end of the week, my father would fire him or her. Just his luck, each new worker the agency sent would be another Haitian whom he’d find fault with within a week’s time. After a while, my father got sick of the shenanigans, called the agency, proceeded to cuss them out, and advised them that they’d better not send “anymore fucking Haitians to his house.”

I’m sorry. I know this is a pretty serious case of racism. Intercultural racism at that for Jamaicans and Haitians are both Caribbean Islanders of African descent, but the irony of the scenario induces laughter in me. Probably because it is so absurd, it’s almost unbelievable. Probably because I find my father to be a ridiculously absurd character comparable to a Shakespearean fool who provides comic relief, yet inadvertent, underlying insight.

Anyway, back to the story. The home healthcare agency of course replied to my father that they couldn’t discriminate. My father’s response was that it was his “fucking house and he could discriminate against whomever he wants.”

Now, in light of the recent revelations of the inherent discrimination by certain Airbnb hosts, I see a commonality. Despite the fact that I think my father is a ridiculous racist, he does have a point. In his home, he can be whomever he wants even if it is offensive and others, (including myself), vehemently disagree with him. He has the right to invite whomever he wants and to exclude whomever he wants, though maybe wrong morally, politically, socially, and any other adjective I can come up with to describe his attitude. But it’s his right. And his home.

I’ve used Airbnb and haven’t had some of the unfortunate experiences that other African Americans have had when trying to book a room. The three hosts I stayed with were welcoming to say the least, and I would stay at each of those places again. However, arguably, Airbnb hosts have taken the same stance as my father has when it comes to inviting boarders into their home. I don’t know about all or even many of the Airbnb hosts, but where I stayed, I was in close proximity of the homeowners. My traveling partner and I appear to be pretty non threatening, and we were on our best behavior because we were in someone’s home. The last thing we wanted to do was to make our host uncomfortable. If my host was uncomfortable for whatever reason, I would be uncomfortable and not want to stay there. I’m not driving at the idea that those who have been discriminated against may have done something within their control to make potential hosts wary. I don’t think I have a different aura or anything. I think I was just lucky. My point is, I don’t want to stay with a racist anymore than they would want me. Just my humble opinion.

I guess what I am working towards are questions to spark a conversation versus a conclusion of how things should and shouldn’t be.

Should Airbnb hosts be allowed to take the same stance as my father regardless of how reprehensible their attitudes are socially considering they are inviting strangers into their homes?

Should Airbnb effectuate higher standards and require that their hosts be open to guests whom they’re uncomfortable with?

Is it Airbnb’s responsibility to take a stance against discrimination within their host community? Or is the problem a much bigger societal issue that need be addressed?

What do you think?

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