The host, Tami Baker, had rented out her mountain cabin in Big Bear on the popular vacation rental site, AirBnB.com. Back in February, Dyne Suh, a 26-year-old law clerk, had booked the cabin for a weekend ski trip with her fiancé, two friends, and two dogs. Baker had agreed to the party’s use of her cabin, charging them $300 per night.
After driving several hours through inclement weather conditions, Suh texted Baker to let her know they were nearly there and to confirm the cost. Baker then denied ever agreeing to let the extra guests stay (despite the screenshots of the agreement) and responded with racist remarks
“Go ahead. I wouldn’t rent to u if u were the last person on earth.”
“One word says it all. Asian.”
After Baker refused to let them into the cabin, Suh and her group made a viral video discussing the racist incident.
They also reported Baker to AirBnB, who promptly removed her from their platform.
“We have worked to provide the guest with our full support and in line with our non-discrimination policy, this host has been permanently removed from the Airbnb platform,” Airbnb representative Christopher Nulty said.
Suh went further, opening up an investigation with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH and AirBnB had previously come to a landmark agreement
that forced AirBnB to screen their hosts for racial bias and punish those that had unfairly discriminated against customers. Baker was the first host to be investigated and subsequently penalized for failing to comply with the agreement and federal discrimination laws.
Baker’s full punishment includes paying Suh $5,000 in damages, completing a college-level course on Asian-American studies, make a personal apology to Suh, follow all anti-discrimination laws, participate in a community education panel, and volunteer with a civil-rights organization.
“We were thinking pretty creatively with this agreement,” said Kevin Kish, director of DFEH. “The law tends to be backwards-looking, focusing on compensating people for harm. We’re interested in remedies that repair harm and transform relationships.”
“A lot of times when we see bias incidents it involves a lack of understanding of the experiences and histories of a particular group of people. This was a creative way to address that core underlying cause of the bias.”
Baker’s attorney, Edward Lee, issued the following statement regarding the conclusion of the investigation:
“[My client is] regretful for her impetuous actions and comments [but pleased to have resolved the matter with Suh and the DFEH] in a manner that can hopefully bring a positive outcome out of an unfortunate incident.”
Suh left this comment on her FaceBook page in light of the verdict:
“Press statement regarding the outcome of the Running Springs/Big Bear airbnb incident:
I am very glad that the outcome of this case includes taking an Asian American studies course. I believe that the more people learn about and understand our history and our struggles, the more they can feel empathy towards us and treat us as equals.
I hope that more victims of discrimination will feel encouraged to come forward with their own stories, empowered now with the knowledge that government entities such as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and other civil rights organizations will take our cases seriously and fight vigorously for us in order to protect our civil rights. Your pain is not insignificant and you are not alone.
Asian Americans are often left out of conversations about race relations, even though we are also targets of racism and discrimination. The more we speak out, the harder it becomes for people to ignore, deny, or trivialize our lived experiences of being discriminated against like this day-to-day.
If we want racism and discrimination to end, we cannot keep suffering in silence, and we cannot stand idly by when it is happening to other people of color and other oppressed minority groups. We are in this together. <3 ✊”