A group of Black women say they were “humiliated” after being kicked off the Napa Valley Wine Train tour in California because a White woman complained about them laughing loudly.
The 11 women, all members of the Sistahs on the Reading Edge book club, were met by police as they were escorted from the locomotive, according to a Facebook status posted by one of the group’s members, Lisa Renee Johnson. The woman who complained reportedly said “this is not a bar,” when expressing her annoyance.
Interestingly enough, the Napa Valley Wine Train serves, well, wine.
In response to the outrage, which prompted the #LaughingWhileBlack hashtag on Twitter, the Napa Valley Wine Train posted a message to their Facebook page defending the decision to escort the women off the train, writing that it was necessary to get the police involved.
The post was deleted, but Johnson managed to grab a screenshot:
Denying the accusation that the book club directed “verbal and physical abuse” towards guests and staff, Johnson told The San Francisco Chronicle that the experience was offensive. “I felt like it was a racist attack on us,” she told the paper. “I feel like we were being singled out.”
One of the women involved was an 83-year-old grandmother.
From The San Francisco Chronicle:
“The train is set up to be with your friends, to drink wine and have a good time,” Johnson said. “We were thinking, ‘Who are we offending?’” Later on, Johnson said the manager told them that “this isn’t going to work,” and that if they didn’t “tone it down,” they were going to be asked to get off the train.
“It was a bizarre thing for all of us,” she said, adding that many in the group quieted down and wondered what had happened. According to Johnson, one of the women in the same car told the group “this isn’t a bar.” “And we though, um, yes it is,” Johnson said.
What came next, she said, was the worst part of the afternoon. When the train pulled into the St. Helena station, the group had to do the “walk of shame” as they were escorted past passengers on the six other cars, Johnson said. At the station, the group was met by officers from the Napa Valley Railroad and St. Helena police departments.
“People were looking at us,” Johnson said. “To get escorted into the hands of waiting police officers. That’s the humiliating part.”
The women were not detained or charged.
Though the company has granted the women a full refund, Johnson says the group deserves a public apology for the humiliation. “They knew they were out of place,” Johnson told the paper.