Vacancy: Only for Whites
by Samsara98 on October 16, 2016 - 3:08pm
What is “race”? If your reflected answer to this question is represented by a classification of humans, I tricked you. If not, you are one of the educated few who know that “race” does not exist genetically. However, if the latter isn’t biologically proven to exist, why then can we discriminate on the basis of features of racial categorizations? The answer is simple: because “race” is a social construct. If you continuously add wood to a fire, you encourage it to spark and grow. This principle is a parallel that ties in with our ideology of “race” because we perpetuate and spread the ideology in societies, which feeds the populations’ belief that it exists. Reinforcing the truthfulness behind these statements, is the article that I chose to evaluate. A few years back, Ms. Kristen Clarke, a young African-American woman and author of this article, chose to pack her bags and head to Argentina, using resources such as Airbnb to facilitate her stay. Although actively searching for a welcoming Airbnb, Ms. Clarke found herself facing a great deal of discrimination throughout her search, due mainly to the colour of her skin. At several occasions, Kristen Clarke was met with injustice instead of comfort and judgement instead of care. What this author retained from her very uncomfortable stay, is that this particular company discriminates on the basis of “race”, asking for a profile picture and a name. In regards to security measures, this seems normal to me. However, where the line should be drawn is when the host requires this specific information to “pick and choose” based on racial criteria’s who they rent the room to. When Kristen Clarke mentions that she was discriminated against based on her “race”, she claims that the hosts were being racist towards her, which is exactly what they were doing. Nonetheless, I believe that it is important to highlight that she herself, making use of the word “race”, might not be aware that it is a social construct and is not a scientifically valid term to use. I have to admit that the terminology slightly confuses me. Being that “race” does not scientifically exist, does this make the term absurd, or should it be considered as a social construct itself? Throughout my reading of this article, I found myself agreeing with her main point that companies like Airbnb who welcome people into their houses should be free of discrimination and racism, because they are acting as hotels, who are themselves bound by the law to be racial discrimination less. It would only make sense to me that Airbnb’s be bound to the same laws as public services are.
The story described and lived by author Kristen Clarke reminded me of a documentary I had studied in a past semester. In the latter, a study had been organized in order to evaluate if participants who were apartment seeking were being discriminated in regards to their “race”. One man was Caucasian, another was an Aboriginal and the last one was African American. The general outcome of this study was that the Caucasian man received the best treatment, was suggested the best apartments, with the best delays and prices while the two other men were treated with disregard, disinterest, and impatience, in addition to be suggested the least promising apartments and higher prices. I remember being in complete shock when viewing this documentary. How can people voluntarily and so explicitly demonstrate racism? Similarly to how Kristen Clarke reacted, these men were appalled when realizing that they weren’t being equally considered by the landlords. The law is supposed to protect people from living situations like these, where basic human rights are being stepped on. Who are these people supposed to turn to when even the law has complete disregard for despicable outcomes like these? What are humans, facing racism, supposed to do when even the higher power of the land won’t even help them gain justice? Maybe the actual social construct here is actually justice itself…
CBC News. (2016, February 26). Racial profiling by stores, landlords and companies: Are we racist? (CBC Marketplace) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjmDwWUhEpg&list=PLeyJPHbRnGaZmzkCwy3-8ykUZm_8B9kKM
Clarke, K. (2016, August 23). Does Airbnb Enable Racism?. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com