Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to depend on my home as a source of income. I’m a freelance journalist, and renting out my basement (and, sometimes, my entire house) on sites such as Airbnb alleviates a lot of pressure.
For people like me, Inauguration Week can be lucrative. During busy tourist seasons, most hosts charge two to four times more per night than usual. I could make thousands of dollars — a windfall.
But I’m no longer planning to rent my home out then. Because I don’t want to bring a certain kind of Donald Trump supporter into my neighborhood. Of course, I believe those coming to D.C. to celebrate Trump’s victory have every right to do so. They had every right to vote for him, and every right to free speech. This isn’t about being a sore loser. It’s about fear.
I am concerned about renting to the wrong kind of Trump celebrant, the kind of Trump supporter for whom hate trumps decency. The type who would rip off a Muslim woman’s headscarf, spray a swastika with the message, “Make America white again,” or write, “#go back to Africa” and “Whites only” on a high school bathroom door. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 400 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment have been made since the election. In Oregon, a group of teenagers began screaming at a Muslim woman on public transportation, “yelling at her that she was a terrorist, that our new president was going to deport her, that she can’t wear her hijab anymore.” A Latina woman in Texas said a white couple yelled, “white power” at her as she walked her baby in a park.
I have a mezuzah on my front door, and guests will quickly figure out that I am Jewish (not evident from my name). Many of my neighbors are African American, members of the LBGTQ community, Muslim, Latino. That worries me. It worries my friends, too. Salim Bhabhrawala lives a couple of doors down from me. He’s engaged on our block; he created an email list to alert neighbors about crime, lost dogs and those in need of help. Once a month, he walks down the street and cleans up garbage to help make our block nicer. Last week, he sent an email to everyone on the street.
“In the last 48 hours my family has experienced incidences of racial discrimination from Trump supporters,” Bhabhrawala wrote, asking neighbors with short-term rentals not to rent to Trump supporters. “A family friend had her hijab torn off her head in Boston just yesterday night and was told to, ‘go back to your own country because Trump is in charge now!’ I think it’s important that we as a community draw a line in the sand and let them know that their values and racist ideals are not welcome in our community and our city.”
So I will politically discriminate during inauguration week. I will host only friends, or friends of friends — people I “know.” And, I will not “charge” these guests to make a profit. I will make a donation to an organization such as Planned Parenthood or Black Lives Matter. My reasons aren’t vindictive. They are protective. They are out of concern for my family, my neighbors, my city. I have never discriminated against a guest because of race, sexual orientation or religion. But I need to do something to take a stand against the hateful rhetoric that has been unleashed and, it seems, encouraged by our president-elect.
As the sharing economy evolves, draws inevitable regulation and the need to resolve conflicts, we also must admit that it is very hard to answer the question I have posed to myself and my neighbors who find themselves in a similar predicament about political discrimination, safety and hosting for the Trump inauguration.