Professor Richard Sloan
July 15, 2017
Well, she’s in the news again. I’m talking, of course, about Tami Barker, the evil white Nazi who cancelled the reservation of a poor Asian girl at the last minute on learning of her skin color then left the girl to freeze in the snow. (At least that’s the story you got from the mainstream media.)
I wrote about this Nazi a few months ago when we only knew her as “Tami”. But this week, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) issued a press release announcing that it negotiated a settlement after pestering the former host (yes, ex-host—AirBnB cancelled Ms. Barker’s hosting status back when the mainstream media first reported on the incident). Anyway, the DFEH doesn’t have the authority to force an alleged offender to comply, but it has the resources to make a real nuisance of itself. Tami Barker eventually agreed to (a) pay out $5000 in damages, (b) issue a personal apology, (c) participate in community service, and (d) take a course in Asian American studies.
Fair play, right? You can’t go tossing Asian people out in snowstorms just because you’re white without eventually expecting you’ll be forced to crack open a book and learn about Ellison Onizuka.
Sure, there was another side to this story. Seems like there’s always another side, lurking in the background. Few probably remember as it was hiding behind headlines and callouts claiming that Barker “named Trump as reason to refuse Asian American guest” (untruth, courtesy of New York Daily News) or “left guest stranded because of her race” (fake news, courtesy of Washington Post).
But if you chipped past the hype and let the facts be your guide, you were left with something like this: Asian America law clerk named Dyne Suh makes AirBnb reservation for weekend cabin at Big Bear Ski Resort. She asks host Tami Barker if she can bring some friends. Tami says, yes, but it’ll cost more. Dyne Suh does not finalize reservations, but leaves it until day of check in when she and her friends are just down the road. Dyne Suh then texts Tami to say she’s 15 minutes away and now a party of four people and two dogs. Hard to know what was said next as this is the part Dyne Suh chose not to reveal, but there’s a $50 number in the air. Tami cancels reservation. Only after she’s lost her booking for the weekend does Tami text out a couple things that will later be used as evidence of her Nazi leanings.
Three things you should remember about the Dyne Suh-Tami Barker incident:
1. Dyne Suh had studied at UCLA School of Law and now works as a law clerk. Would you not think that if Dyne Suh had a case she would have filed it through the courts? Much better payout. Instead, Dyne Suh chose to cry on camera for a KTLA reporter and provide pre-selected excerpts of her text conversation so that the world could see how this racist Trump supporter left her stranded in the snow. This basically guaranteed that AirBnb would step up to the plate and foot the bill for Dyne Suh’s hotel. Next Dyne Suh conspired to sick the DFEH on Ms. Barker. The DFEH is actually working with AirBnb to address racial profiling issues. But odd for a legal gal not to go the civil suit route if this really was a cut and dry case of race discrimination.
2. Tami Barker never said “I don’t want you because you’re Asian” or words to that effect. AirBnb is a transparent platform. All members must upload verified photos and hosts are provided with full names of guests upon confirmation of reservation. Seems like Tami Barker might already have guessed Dyne Suh’s ethnicity prior to cancellation. Meanwhile, the screenshots that Dyne Suh released to illustrate Tami’s allegedly offensive remarks also illustrate that they came AFTER the deal fell through. A frustrated Tami Barker, who’d probably seen this last-minute haggling pattern before, typed out, “One word says it all. Asian”. But as soon as Dyne Suh communicated how offended she was that she, as a flag-waving Asian American, might be confused with a sneaky bucktoothed Asian Asian, Tami Barker walked it back: act like an American then and cut the BOGO crap.
3. Dyne Suh brought an extra two friends and two dogs…yet they were talking about $50 a night. Even if this wasn’t the busiest weekend in Big Bear, fifty bucks a night just for one person seems kind of a low starting point for a California ski resort. You’d pay more most nights in the middle of the California desert. If I was a proud AirBnb lodge host and I got a last minute message from a confirmed guest who now wanted to squeeze in two more pals and a couple of pets for fifty dollars, I’d probably blow my top, too. Of course, this is the part of the text conversation that Dyne Suh doesn’t reveal, so we’re supposed to assume the cancellation was based on race, Trump, and Nazis (yes, Tami talked of such things, but that came later). By the way, what was Dyne Suh’s plan for when the four humans were out on the slopes? Were the dogs going to ski too? Or were they going to be locked in the cabin pooping on Tami’s floors and tearing up her upholstery?
Bottom line: Seems that Tami could well have had the same reaction had Dyne Suh been some blonde white chick? Of course, were that the case, we would never have heard about it because a Diane Smith wouldn’t have been able to cry racism
Unfortunately for Tami Barker, she didn’t realize when she decided to remark on a certain pattern she’d detected that she was moving into an area where free speech was no longer free. It’s now several thousands of dollars. Said DFEH Chief Counsel Jon Ichinaga: “There is a monetary cost to discriminating in California…a $4,000 minimum penalty.”
Thanks, Jon. I guess the lesson for nazi AirBnb hosts like Tami must be “don’t accept reservations of Asian people in the first place”, right?
“Total Discrimination! They said I couldn’t check in with my dogs… but white people get to bring their dinner!”
Caption: Translation: “You say you’re 15 minutes away, you want another couple to stay with you for one-fifth the normal price, plus I take care of your dogs all weekend? No problem. Only…wait…[eyes narrow]…are you Asian?”