“I want to make sure my boyfriend is safe.”
“That he doesn’t get shot getting the keys from the lockbox.”
These were the words from a guest who just arrived at my Airbnb and was sharing my home with me. Yes, Eveland, in Brooklyn, New York.
This was her concern.
She didn’t want to know about the nearby restaurant, or about my comfortable bed.
No, she wanted to make sure that her boyfriend would not be shot because of the color of his skin.
About his safety in my neighborhood.
I have lived in this home for 16 years and in the neighborhood for over 25 years. It’s mostly a white, affluent neighborhood.
Actors Patrick Stewart, Michelle Williams and the mayor of New York live in my neighborhood. It’s that kind of hood…
I know my neighbors and they know I do Airbnb. Actually, they send me their family members to stay at my home.
I have never felt unsafe or worried about my safety or my guest’s safety. .
But my guest felt unsafe for her boyfriend, because of the color of his skin.
I don’t have answers;
I want you to think of the privilege that you might have of not worrying about your safety when you’re planning to go into a vacation rental. And go and collect some keys.Or you had to tell your children, ”Hey, when a cop talks to you, this is how you behave?”
Or you see in the news one more time another person of your skin color getting killed by the people who are supposed to be protecting them.
Or you see a video of someone who tells a man, “I’m going to call the cops and tell them that an African American man is threatening me.”
And then does it,
and changes her voice, right there.
To a quiver of fear.
And this time is videotaped..
But if he hadn’t videotaped this person using her (race as a weapon) white privilege, he could have been jailed or killed.
Have You Ever?
Have you ever worried about someone doing that to you?
No? Right, because it’s ridiculous. You think, ”Of course not. Come on Evelyn.”
That is your privilege. The privilege of walking around this world without the concern that the color of your skin creates a barrier before anyone knows anything about you.
You might say, “I’m not a racist. I don’t do those things. I don’t think like that.”
But are you anti-racist?
What is that… An anti-racist is a person who opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance.
Silence speaks loudly, my dear hosts. Silence speaks.
That simple act.
Have you ever worried about this?
Have you ever gone into a store and gotten special attention because of your lovely shade of white?
Or are you afraid to take a walk by yourself in your neighborhood because you don’t want the neighbors to call the cops on you, even though you live there? You belong there.
Or a taxi didn’t stop for you? By now you’re probably thinking, ”Has Evelyn gone off the deep end? What does this have to do with Airbnb? I'm just worried about my reservations and cleaning.”
Who is cleaning for you? Who is on your team? Anyone African American? Who are your neighbors? Any friends? Have you reached out to them to make sure they’re ok? Are you listening?
No, they don’t want to hear that you’re not racist and that you feel horrible.
This isn’t about you.
This isn’t about me. I’m Latina; and, yes, I have encountered racism, but I’m not African American. I still have privilege and I know it.
This is about them.
Rachel is an African American business coach, and she has posted the following insights about what we can do today.
- Amplify African American voices: share messages from African American activist entrepreneurs and leaders. Some of Rachel’s recommendations are:
- Have hard conversations with your white friends. Tell your racist aunts and uncles that you don’t agree with them and why. Hold the white leaders you follow accountable.
- Vote with your dollars. Money speaks. What businesses or organizations are you supporting? And are you taking note of who is staying silent during these times?
- Read and educate yourself: Some of Rachel’s recommendations
- This Will Be My Undoing, Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in White America, by Morgan Jenkins
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by Carol Anderson
- So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Olou
- White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
- How to be Anti Racist, by Ibram X Kendi
- Donate and support the fight. On the website Medium, there is an article called 75 Things White People can DO for Racial Justice. Start doing those things.
Use your privilege.
- Ask the African American members of your community and your employees if they’re okay. Reach out, call. Listen. Listen with an open heart.
In addition, if you are a leader in the vacation rental world. Who do you see sitting around the table? Who is next to you? Who do you partner with? Who has a voice?
I have gone to numerous conferences where you can count on one hand the minorities on the stage, with a platform.
Our experiences are a bit different. Let it be known. Reach out and invite them to the table.
In reference to your guests’ safety:
Do they have a reason to feel that your neighbors might call the cops on them? That they might be interrogated or shot while picking up the keys?
I was thankful to let my guest know that I have friends who are African American. They come in and out of my home, they’re part of my life. My neighbors will not feel threatened by seeing someone of color entering my home. In addition, they know my home is an Airbnb.
Please think about how your guest—your fellow human—is feeling.
This is not about you; this is about what you do now.