Over the weekend, 11 members of a mostly African American women’s book club says a luxe Napa Valley wine train ordered them off of the train for laughing and talking too loudly.
The women, members of the Sisters on the Reading Edge book club, said the manager of the train removed them off Saturday, mid-journey for allegedly disturbing other passengers with their laughter . “We didn’t do anything wrong,” club member Lisa Johnson, told KTVU. “We still feel this is about race. We were singled out.” Worse, the company originally posted on their Facebook page that the women were ejected after becoming violent.
“Following verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff, it was necessary to get our police involved,” said the statement, shared on Facebook. “Many groups come on board and celebrate. When those celebrations impact our guests, we do intervene.”
The original statement has since been deleted and replaced with an apology.
“I want to apologize for your experience on the Napa Valley Wine Train on Saturday, Aug. 22. We accept full responsibility for our failures and the entire chain of unfortunate events you experienced.”
“Clearly, we knew in advance when we booked your party that you would be loud, fun-loving and boisterous—because you told us during the booking process that you wanted a place where your Club could enjoy each other’s company. Somehow that vital information never made it to the appropriate channels and we failed to seat your group where you could enjoy yourself properly and alert our train’s staff that they should expect a particularly vibrant group.
“We were insensitive when we asked you to depart our train by marching you down the aisle past all the other passengers. While that was the safest route for disembarking, it showed a lack of sensitivity on our part that I did not fully conceive of until you explained the humiliation of the experience and how it impacted you and your fellow Book Club members.
“We also erred by placing an inaccurate post on our Facebook site that was not reflective of what actually occurred. In the haste to respond to criticism and news inquires, we made a bad situation worse by rushing to answer questions on social media. We quickly removed the inaccurate post, but the harm was done by our erroneous post.
“In summary, we were accurately insensitive to you and the members of the Book Club. Please accept my apologies for our many mistakes and failures. We pride ourselves our hospitality and our desire to please our guests on the Napa Valley Wine Train. In this instance, we failed in every measure of the meaning of good service, respect and hospitality.
“I appreciate your recommendation that our staff, which I believe to be among the best, could use additional cultural diversity and sensitivity training. I pledge to make sure that occurs and I plan to participate myself.
“As I offered in my conversation with you today, please accept my personal apologies for your experience and the experience of the Book Club members. I would like to invite you and other members to return plus 39 other guests (you can fill an entire car of 50) as my personal guests in a reserved car where you can enjoy yourselves as loudly as you desire.
“I want to conclude again by offering my apologies for your terrible experience.”
When news of the incident spread to social media, individuals quickly began to express their displeasure on the company’s Yelp page. On twitter, the hashtag #laughingwhileblack was created to not only condemn the incident, but draw connections to other anti-Black events.
When white folks hatred runs so deep our joy bothers them….. #LaughingWhileBlack occurs
— KayRay (@RE_invent_ED) August 24, 2015
— Marc (@marclaw69) August 25, 2015
— Sing n Play (@SingnPlay) August 24, 2015
— malkia a. cyril (@culturejedi) August 24, 2015
— Minister Baé (@alwaystheself) August 25, 2015