I’m appalled that 11 Black women – including an 83-year-old grandmother — were abruptly kicked off the luxurious Wine Train in Napa Valley, California for what train officials insist was an egregious railway offense: Laughing too loud.
Imagine that? It’s the Wine Train — people drink wine, they laugh; it’s an activity designed for fun and enjoyment. But are the rules different for Black women?
“It was humiliating. I’m really offended to be quite honest,” said 47-year-old Lisa Johnson, who was among the 11 black women who were herded off the train and promptly met by railroad police. “I felt like it was a racist attack on us. I feel like we were being singled out.”
Johnson said members of her group, “Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club,” were targeted because they were simply “laughing while Black.”
She is probably right. There were so many ways Wine Train officials could have handled this situation, but forcing a group of Black women off the train, including an 83-year-old grandmother, is deplorable and just bad business.
What was supposed to be an enjoyable afternoon turned ugly for the women last Saturday two hours after they boarded the Wine Train. One white woman, according to Johnson, told the group they were annoying her and complained to train attendants.
“This is not a bar,” the woman said.
Wine train officials said the women were laughing too loud and were told three times to keep the noise down. Officials said the women were not drunk but ordered them off the train anyway citing a standing policy about excessive noise. Train officials then posted this message on the Wine Train Facebook page.
“Following verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff, it was necessary to get our police involved. Many groups come on board and celebrate. When those celebrations impact our guests, we do intervene.”
While witnesses said white guests on the train were also laughing and enjoying themselves during the excursion, Johnson called the incident a “walk of shame” after the train stopped at St. Helena and the Black women were greeted by Wine Train railroad police.
“They paraded us through 6 cars on display in front of the other guests to waiting police like we were criminals,” Johnson said in a Facebook post. “Then they made a written public statement on social media that we verbally and physically abused other guest and staff…one word. UNACCEPTABLE!”