Following outrage over the treatment of a group of Black women on the Napa Valley Wine Train over the weekend, the top tour executive has apologized for kicking the book club off the train for laughing loudly.
The apology comes after the 11 women were escorted off the train following complaints from a White passenger who said their laughter was disturbing others. The women, including an 85-year-old grandmother, were met with police escorts as they were removed. The incident sparked the Twitter hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack.
“The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100% wrong in its handling of this issue,” CEO Anthony Giaccio said in a statement. “We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests.”
Giaccio’s statement is a far cry from the Train’s initial response. After the women were removed, the Napa Valley Wine Train posted a message to their Facebook page defending the decision, writing that it was necessary to get the police involved. The post was quickly deleted, but ‘Sisahs on the Reading Edge’ book club member Lisa Johnson managed to grab a screenshot:
The book club trip started off well enough, according to Johnson’s social media documentation of the tour. But shortly into the trip, things got tense.
“We sipped wine, enjoyed each others’ company but our trip is being cut short,” she wrote. “This woman said our laughter annoyed her because this is ‘not a bar’… if we all laugh at the same time it’s loud! When we get to St. Helena they are putting us off the train.”
Adding insult to injury, the staff “paraded” them through five cars full of passengers to exit the train, Johnson told CNN affiliate KRON. Police met them at the train stop, where they waited for 20 minutes for a bus to pick them up.
Johnson attributed the treatment to racial bias, suggesting in a Facebook post that their only offense was “laughing while black.”
“I have been a black woman all of my life and I know exactly what it feels like and that’s exactly what it feels like to me.”
Johnson and the members did receive a refund for the trip, but demanded a public apology for the humiliation they endured. Giaccio’s apology, however, “missed the point.”
“They’re not apologizing for parading us down those five train cars and giving us to the police; they’re not apologizing for making us stand in the dirt for 20 minutes in the hot sun with an 85-year-old senior and somebody else who is just recovering from surgery,” Johnson told KRON.
“They’re not apologizing to how we felt we were treated on their train,” she said. “We feel like we were never their customers, and they never ever made accommodations for us. It was about us having to make accommodations for other people.”
The company is now offering the group a free wine tour, where they can enjoy themselves “as loudly as [they] desire.”
Shade? You can read the full apology here.
Watch Lisa Renee Johnson, member of the Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club, Napa Valley Train CEO Tony Giaccio and NewsOne Now host Roland Martin discuss the #LaughingWhileBlack incident where 11 Black women were removed from a train for allegedly laughing too loud in the video clip below.
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