Charlotte man banned from Airbnb after racial slur against guest

Charlotte man banned from Airbnb after racial slur against guest

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte man has been banned from an online lodging rental website after he is accused of going on a racial tirade against a potential guest.

A Northwestern University student identified only as "Jane," reportedly needed a temporary place to stay in Charlotte. That's when she allegedly received messages from a Charlotte-based Airbnb host, that were so offensive, the on-demand home rental giant decided to ban him for life.

The messages were published on a blog by one of Jane's friends, Alicia Luchetti, Tuesday. She says Jane is a 28-year-old student, originally from Africa, who attends Northwestern.

In the screenshots, a man named Todd Warner repeatedly cursed and used racist language despite Jane telling him to stop.

"This is the south darling [sic]," Warner allegedly wrote in one of the messages. "Find another place to rest your n***** head."

"I was absolutely appalled. It was just outrageous," Airbnb global head of policy Chris Lehane told CBS News. "It's why we took immediate action and why we have a zero tolerance policy on any type of activity like this."

A Harvard Business School study suggests Airbnb guests with distinctively African-American names were about 16 percent less likely to be accepted than those with white names.

"The extent of discrimination is pretty persistent. So it holds whether there's an African American host, or a white host," Harvard Business School assistant professor Michael Luca told CBS News.

"I honestly never really encountered anything personal that stuck out to me as such. I hear and read about it, and most certainly know it exists," Jane told Luchetti. "But never in my wild dreams would I expect this, certainly not in 2016."

"I thought it was a joke at first, a sick one at that. So I had to read through it a couple of times," she continued. "Then I just cried. I guess I was overwhelmed with the thought of what could have happened if I moved in without him finding out I was black? Would he have assaulted me physically or verbally etc? I just didn't feel safe anymore."

Jane, who still plans to come to Charlotte for the summer, says she's nervous about living in Charlotte now.

"For the first time in my life, I'm conscious about my skin and race and the implications these have on my safety and well being. I've heard wonderful things about Charlotte and really hope my experience there reverses my feelings about this incident." she told Luchetti. "It's hard to not walk around with a little bit of fear this summer in Charlotte."

The company says it has begun offering training to employees and hosts. Laura Murphy, a former top ACLU official, will conduct a comprehensive review to make sure guests and hosts are being treated fairly.

Airbnb hopes to complete the review by September.

Jane says she hopes to see Airbnb do more screening for hosts and the language that goes through the platform.

"The repercussions of the actions of such ill minded individuals is a huge detriment to these companies. They need to play their role not just in business but also in society and help protect users of their platform," she said. "Today it's a 'minor' case of racism, tomorrow it could be a serious case of pre-mediated murder or assault!"

Charlotte City Council James Mitchell wants city staff to investigate the company's practices in light of the racial incident.

"I'm hoping it's a one time thing, but I do think we need to take a proactive step in light of what's happened, and make sure it's not happening in our community," Mitchell said Friday. "To have an owner who's clearly gonna look at one race and say 'you're not welcome' and use the N-word and say 'go somewhere else,' we cannot tolerate that in Charlotte."

Civil rights attorney John Gresham says Airbnb and the Charlotte property owner could face legal issues over discrimination.

"It is clear that Airbnb had best begin to establish a policy to say anyone who rents a room through Airbnb must adhere to the public accommodations laws," he said.

Luchetti says "Jane" doesn't want to do interviews about the incident. WBTV has reached out to Todd Warner but has not heard back.

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