Update August 25, 1:55pm: In a letter, a Napa Valley Wine Train executive has offered a formal apology to the 11 women who were removed from the company's train last weekend. "The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100 percent wrong with its handling of the issue," wrote chief executive officer Anthony "Tony" Giaccio. "We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests."
What should have been a fun outing for the 11 members of the Sisters on the Reading Edge book club ended in humiliation, after all of the group's members were kicked off a train ride through wine country in Napa Valley this weekend.
The members — all black women — were removed from the Napa Valley Wine Train for laughing and talking too loudly as they sipped their wine. "This isn't a bar," one of the passengers who was on the train complained to the group, Lisa Johnson, 47, told the San Francisco Gate. “And we thought, um, yes it is."
Outrage over the removal of the 11 black women from the train has spread across social media, along with the hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack. Johnson posted a photo of a white woman on her Facebook page before the group was removed, pinpointing her as the one who "said our laugher annoyed her."
“It was humiliating. I’m really offended to be quite honest,” said Johnson. “I felt like it was a racist attack on us. I feel like we were being singled out.”
On Yelp, the user review site, a woman claimed to have witnessed the incident, recommending that others "steer clear" of the business "if you would like to be part of the solution, rather than the problem of white supremacy and racism."
"I can only conclude that it was discrimination," she added.
A friend of these ladies also came to their defense on the site:
By Monday morning, others had joined in, calling the company racist for the removal of the book club members.
One woman says that because of the incident, she will have to make separate arrangements for her wedding that she was hoping to hold on the train. "I refuse to profess my love in a place where hate and prejudice STILL exists," she wrote.
There are dozens of posts like this, from people who are giving negative reviews on the train based on the news of the day, but who have openly never ridden the train. In the long term, some of these kinds of reviews might get removed (they don't jive with the company's review guidelines, which maintain reviews should be both "passionate" and "personal"). There are also mechanisms in place for businesses to remove reviews from people who have never visited the business.
But for now, these reviews are still live. In their defense, the Napa Valley Wine Train spokesperson told the San Francisco Gate that “The Napa Valley Wine Train does not enjoy removing guests from our trains, but takes these things very seriously in order to ensure the enjoyment and safety of all of our guests." The spokesperson added that they "received complaints from several parties" about the women.
In a since deleted post (Johnson captured screenshots and shared them), the company's Facebook page said: "Following verbal and physical abuse towards our guests and staff, it was necessary to get the police involved."
On a positive note, the women seem to have bounced back very quickly:
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.