A Black traveler is speaking out after she claims she was on the receiving end of a virulently racist tirade by a Miami Beach condo owner.
Monifah Brown thought she’d found the perfect spot for herself and her friends for their upcoming girls trip to Miami Beach, Florida. Brown, a 24-year-old from London, scored a reservation last week at the oceanside condo unit on popular travel site Booking.com, according to the Miami New Times.
All seemed well until Brown took too long to respond to a message from the condo’s owner, Giulia Ozyesilpinar, who rents out units at the Ocean Five Condo Hotel. Screenshots of their exchange posted to social media showed Ozyesilpinar repeatedly call Brown the n-word and a “monkey,” amid a host of other racist insults.
In one of the texts, Ozyesilpinar tells Brown, 24, there appears to be an issue with her credit card before quickly coming more aggressive and calling the young woman a “n—-r” after she takes a few hours to respond.
“Are you there? Or are you acting like you are ignoring me?” her message read, followed by: “You acting with lies gives a very very bad picture for all of the black people. Please try to act like a lady and be good representation of black people and not a lying untrustable [sic] person giving bad name to black people.”
But the insults didn’t stop there; in a later message, Ozyesilpinar asks Brown if she’s a prostitute.
Texts and recordings obtained by the Miami New Times also captured the rental owner saying “You are a n—-r” and making monkey sounds before asking, “You want banana Africa?” The outlet reported that Ozyesilpinars even posted a video to YouTube featuring Brown’s ID next to a picture of a monkey.
“I’m just so shocked,” said Moesha Bennett, who planned on making the September trip with Brown and a few other friends. “I have never, ever, ever come across anything like this in my life. … I don’t think I still wanna go to Miami.”
Brown also decided she had had enough and canceled her booking with the host, saying she “no longer [felt] comfortable staying in your property.”
“Thank you so much for showing your true colours,” Brown responded after Ozyesilpinar’s racist rant. “I suggest next time, you learn to have some class like this Black woman, racist b—h.”
She also called on Booking.com to remove Ozyesilpinar’s listing from its website, which the company did — only after a friend of Brown’s shared the racist messages on social media. Backlash ensued, and it wasn’t long before the people inundated Ocean Five Condo Hotel with negative online reviews.
Ozyesilpinar has defended herself against the outrage and accused Brown of insulting her first, even though the screenshots don’t reflect that. In an interview with The Independent, the condo owner claimed Brown grew upset and began threatening her after she questioned the validity of her credit card.
“I did respond to her, ‘You stupid Monkey’ because enough was enough,” she told the UK outlet. “However, where I come from in Italy the word monkey is used to describe rude behavior.”
Ozyesilpinar also denied being a racist, telling the New Times that she has Black friends and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Still, she said she doesn’t regret her racist vitriol against Brown and argued that “being racist isn’t illegal.”
“We live in a free world,” she said. “We have freedom of speech. If I want to call somebody a monkey, I should be able to say that.”
In a statement, Booking.com confirmed to Atlanta Black Star that it has removed the condo listing from its platform pending an investigation into the incident.
“At Booking.com, we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and if we find that an accommodation listed on our site engages in discriminatory behavior, we cease our working relationship and remove them from our site, just as we have done in this case,” the statement read.
Airbnb also confirmed it has “permanently removed” Ozyesilpinar as a host on its website, saying: “Discrimination has no place on the Airbnb platform.”
Brown, who’s still in the process of planning her trip, is thankful Ozyesilpinar’s listing is gone but criticized Booking.com for dragging their feet on the issue.
“It shouldn’t have been taken so lightly in the first place,” she told the New Times. “I will appreciate now that Booking.com are trying to do everything they can to resolve it; I will say that now. But it took thousands of people on social media to get to that place.”