Ta-Nehisi Coates did an interview with Bill Moyers last week discussing his recent cover story for the Atlantic Monthly. If you haven’t read the article yet, you need to. The Case for Reparations is a magnificent article that gracefully discusses racism, housing discrimination and the struggle for economic security in the African-American community. The interview is long, clocking in at over 24 minutes, but it’s worth every minute. Let me know what you think in the comments.
Hey everybody, Cara here. Welcome to the first WTF Wednesday, where I’ll be talking about the recent stories that made me say WTF.
To start things off:
Let’s talk about the NYPD’s epic fail of a hashtag: #myNYPD. The NYPD Twitter account asked people to submit photos of officers using the hashtag and boy, was that a mistake. Instead of images of positive and helpful interactions, the hashtag was used to show tons of pictures of police brutality, most of which happened during Occupy Wall Street. Oops. Should have seen that one coming.
A new neighborhood watch has made its presence known in Fairview Township, PA, and they are staffed by none other than the local chapter of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. That’s right. The KKK is protecting community members from a recent slew of break-ins in the area and I, for one, feel safer already.
I posted a few days ago on the potential pitfalls and distortions of the sharing economy — singling out a recent Harvard study detailing renter discrimination on rental lodging website Airbnb. Professor and writer Tom Slee has a wonderful piece in Jacobin that expands on the fears I touched on earlier, specifically that the sharing economy has major holes in regulations that open the door for abuses with few avenues for recourse. Again on Airbnb:
Many of Airbnb’s “hosts” are violating New York’s short-term rental laws or their own tenancy or co-op agreements, or both. In early skirmishes, individual hosts were taken to court, but after talks broke down, the Attorney General demanded a list of all 15,000 Airbnb hosts in the city. The company accused the Attorney General of a “fishing expedition.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Internet Association (“representing the leading internet companies”) have stepped in on the side of Airbnb, pledging to “fight this tooth and nail.” Sharing economy group Peers has collected over 200,000 signatures on a petition to “save sharing in New York,” and Airbnb has released studies and produced videos to fight the suits…
…[T]he dispute has drawn in not only the hotel industry but also, in a rare alliance, landlord and tenant groups. The Attorney General claims that illegal hotels are abusing Airbnb’s site, and Krueger complains that Airbnb is “actively recruiting tenants to list their apartments on their websites even though they are well aware they are putting residents at risk of eviction” by breaking laws and tenancy agreements. Some “online businesses have become highly profitable by ignoring state and local laws and ignoring the damage their business model has done to communities.”
I’m all in favor of innovation and utilizing the free flow of information to come to creative economic solutions. But we also have to realize that these things aren’t perfect, people do get left behind and it’s critical that we make sure the correct protections are in place to minimize the damage.
Either way, Slee’s article is a really fascinating read. Check it out.
The sharing economy is a real thing, people. It’s a movement that’s branded itself as a technologically driven, cultural and economic realignment that shuns the excess and waste of generations past in preference for a more collaborative and open sharing of goods and services.
In theory, a sharing economy makes a lot of sense. If you have excess room in your car on your morning commute, why not share the seats? If you’re going to be out of town for a few weeks, why not rent out your rooms? The sharing economy can help eat up some of that waste and simultaneously put a little bit of money in your pocket.
At the same time, the sharing economy can be a bit scary because many of the businesses we associate with the sharing sector circumvent costs and regulations traditional service providers have to comply with. Sometime purposefully and sometimes not, these companies bypass important rules we’ve collectively put in place to ensure that certain negative outcomes do not occur.
Take Airbnb for instance — a website where people can rent out individual rooms, apartments or whole houses for a short period of time. A potential renter can log-on to the site, search a destination and choose from a host of potential properties available. After selecting a property, the website notifies the landlord and facilitates the financial transaction. It’s as simple as that.
Only, Airbnb seems to be mimicking the traditional economy in a very troubling way as early research is showing that property renters on the Airbnb websites are potentially discriminating against black landlords. (more…)