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Kahlil Robert Irving racial profiling in New York City

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Imagine spending money on a nice hotel room, only to be woken up from your sleep by hotel staff claiming you didn’t belong there. That very scenario happened to a famed Black artist while he was trying to catch some Zs in a New York City hotel.

Kahlil Robert Irving, filed a complaint with the state Human Rights Division after he says he was racially profiled by staff members at The High Line Hotel. According to reports, on the morning of January 22nd, Irving was sleeping in his hotel room when two employees, both white men, used a keycard to enter his room and demanded he leave the premises immediately. Hotel staff allegedly threatened police intervention, and accused Irving “of being a homeless person who had broken into the room.”

The complaint claims that staffers completely “ignored the hotel key card sitting in plain sight by the door.” 

They also continued to harass Irving until he “was able to sit up in bed, retrieve [his] phone, retrieve the hotel reservation online, and convince the hotel manager of his error.”  

The complaint also claims that no one at the hotel offered Irving an apology.

Kahlil Robert Irving and his attorney, Laurence J. Eisenstein, believe that racism certainly played a part in his incident at the hotel.

“It is impossible, except for racial animus, to imagine why the hotel manager would not have first called my room if there were questions or knocked politely to make a friendly inquiry,” Irving said in the complaint. “Instead of immediately taking a highly confrontational approach, choosing accusations over inquiry and immediately making aggressive threats without any provocations.”

Eisenstein told Gothamist that his client is seeking an apology for their wrongful conduct. He also wants better staff training, the hotel employees involved to be disciplined, and monetary compensation. 

Kahlil Robert Irving is a world-renowned artist who has had works shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and the Danish Culture Center in Hungary. The St. Louis native was an Artist in Residence at Art Omi in the summer of 2018 and was also awarded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award in 2019 and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in 2020.


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