What started out as a fun event, traveling on the Napa Valley wine train, turned into a “humiliating” experience for 11 black women.
According to a report by SF Gate, 47-year-old Lisa Johnson and 10 members of the Sisters on the Reading Edge book club were taking their annual trip through the wine country when they were asked to leave the train for apparently laughing too loudly.
As they rode the 18-mile stretch, the women, all wearing matching t-shirts, started ordering tastings and glasses of wines, seemingly enjoying their time together. Not long after their train departed, a manager approached the group and asked them to keep down the noise.
“The train is set up to be with your friends, to drink wine and have a good time,” Johnson said, according to The Independent. “We were thinking, ‘Who are we offending?’ “
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) August 24, 2015
While Johnson admits that her group may have been a little “rambunctious,” they were not “obnoxious or intoxicated,” they were simply laughing and enjoying their time together, like all of the other paying customers on the Napa Valley wine train. Eventually, the manager returned to the group and told them “this isn’t going to work,” and that if they didn’t “tone it down,” they would have to get off of the train.
When the train arrived at the St. Helena station, Johnson and her friends had to make the “walk of shame” through six cars. Outside, they were met by the Napa Valley Railroad and St. Helena police departments.
— The Cut (@TheCut) August 24, 2015
“People were looking at us,” Johnson said. “To get escorted into the hands of waiting police officers. That’s the humiliating part.”
No police action was taken, and the train station treated them “wonderfully,” according to Johnson, refunding their money, giving them free pictures, and sending a van to pick them up. She said she was ready to let the entire incident go, but then someone posted about the incident on Facebook, accusing them of ” verbal and physical abuse.”
“Following verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff, it was necessary to get our police involved,” the since-deleted post reads in part. “Many groups come on board and celebrate. When those celebrations impact our other guests, we do intervene.”
— Women Tricks (@WomenTricks) August 24, 2015
Johnson later took to Facebook to post pictures of the entire incident as it unfolded, questioning whether or not they would have been treated this way if they were white, and sparking the hashtag #laughingwhileblack.
“I’ve slept and I’m no less angry and humiliated this morning than yesterday,” she wrote. “WE were paying customers too. They paraded us through 6 cars on display in front of the other guests to waiting police like we were criminals. Then they made a written public statement on social media that we verbally and physically abused other guest and staff… one word. UNACCEPTABLE! This can NEVER happen to anyone else ever again…”
Not only does Johnson think she and her friends were discriminated against because of their race, a Yelp review also came to the same conclusion.
Napa Valley Wine Train yelp reviews right now… there are so many more pic.twitter.com/idJpSiEIJZ
— ALMAR (@alanisyourdaddy) August 23, 2015
“I watched in disbelief as staff harassed a group of people who were merely drinking wine and laughing. I’d like to think it wasn’t a racially motivated act, but given the fact that other, non-Black guests were behaving in the same way and not removed, I can only conclude that it was discrimination,” the review read.
What do you think about the group of black women being kicked off of the Napa Valley wine train? Do you think it was racially motivated? Leave your comments below.
[Photo via Facebook]