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Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Over the weekend 10 women, 9 of them black and one white, were marched off something called a Napa Valley Wine Train for laughing too loudly. 
A maître d’ also told them they were making too much noise. Asked who was complaining, he said that “people’s faces are uncomfortable.”

Johnson said the group of women — 10 black and one white — were then paraded through all six cars and escorted off the train where police were waiting for them.
photo and quote from

Then the company added insult to humiliating injury. They posted this on company facebook page.

Finally, after two or three full days of being trounced in the news and on social media, the Napa Valley Wine Train issued this excuse list rather than an apology: 

Clearly, we knew in advance when we booked your party that you would be loud, fun-loving and boisterous—because you told us during the booking process that you wanted a place where your Club could enjoy each other’s company. Somehow that vital information never made it to the appropriate channels and we failed to seat your group where you could enjoy yourself properly and alert our train’s staff that they should expect a particularly vibrant group...  

We were insensitive when we asked you to depart our train by marching you down the aisle past all the other passengers. While that was the safest route for disembarking, it showed a lack of sensitivity on our part that I did not fully conceive of until you explained the humiliation of the experience and how it impacted you and your fellow Book Club members.

We also erred by placing an inaccurate post on our Facebook site that was not reflective of what actually occurred. In the haste to respond to criticism and news inquires, we made a bad situation worse by rushing to answer questions on social media. We quickly removed the inaccurate post, but the harm was done by our erroneous post.

Frankly, I'm even angrier now that I know that the woman who made the reservation asked if it was okay if they were noisy. 

I've been on a bus full of drinking women going to a winery. It's not the same as two or three women going to a winery.  That's a loud and different trip when there are 10 to 15 women and women at the front of the bus know and want to talk to the women at the back of the bus. A group of any size talking to each other while drinking is a party.

Party's are loud.

And I'm supposed to believe NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN has never had a rowdy group of drinking white women on a train that's essentially a rolling bar?

I'm supposed to believe that laughing and joking and singing is prohibited on a train where the point is to drink wine during the entire trip?

I'm supposed to believe that NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN has never accidentally seated a party's worth of loud white women next to quieter white couples or quieter white groups of two or three before? I'm supposed to believe that NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN has no other strategy to deal with something (loud laughter) that absolutely cannot be an isolated incident?


I want to see their training manual. I refuse to believe the employees have no guidance for an event such as this. The only thing NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN employees found unusual about this group of women was that they were predominantly black.  

Clearly, NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN has had to move people because one group was too loud for another before. Just because they couldn't this time because the train was full, what made it okay to march these women down the train aisle and eject them into the hands of armed policemen? What is it other than black skin that could have made this seem like a reasonable response?

And I'm supposed to believe that the apology is an apology? 


"We were insensitive when we asked you to depart our train by marching you down the aisle past all the other passengers. While that was the safest route for disembarking, it showed a lack of sensitivity..."

And where's the apology for this:

A maître d’ also told them they were making too much noise. Asked who was complaining, he said that “people’s faces are uncomfortable.”

I suggest to you that the only thing on the faces of the other passengers was white skin.

"Lack of sensitivity" is not the problem here. Removing 10 customers, most of whom are black, in favor of one (or none if you believe the maitre'd) complaining white customer is the problem. It's a wonder one of their staff didn't yell "get these thugs of the train" when they rolled into the station where the Lisa Renee Johnson and her friends were thrown off. 

I wonder if the white women in the same car cheered when this predominantly black group was removed?

In 1881, when Ida B. Wells was thrown off the a train for being black and having the audacity to sit in the first class ladies the white customers remaining on the train most definitely cheered as Wells was removed. The white people of that era were openly and overtly racist, therefore they could only laugh and cheer at  Wells humiliation. I've never heard about what the white passengers did when Rosa Parks was thrown taken off the bus by police in 1955 but I always imagine openly racist, white southerners as being quite happy when Parks was taken off the bus. 

Then again, now that I think about it, "lack of sensitivity" is exactly the problem. There's a lack of sensitivity to white racism. In 2015, it can't be seen, felt, or heard by those executing it. Surely, this is the core problem. Because I find it hard to believe that there is even the slightest chance that NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN would have handled this so badly had this been a group of white women. And if this incident had happened to a group of white women, the first thing in the apology would have been an assurance that the responsible party had been severely reprimanded or fired. 

NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN offered the women another trip on their train after they were shamed into apologizing.  Yeah, right.  Try refunding all their money then offering them accommodations at your competitors business. NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN might not ever get Renee's Book Club to ride their train again, but they might get other black people to believe

1) the apology is a sincere one.  

2) Napa Valley's predominantly white population isn't a population hostile to black people in general. I mean, how did the staff's behavior pass for "normal" for two or three whole minutes much less the two or three days it took NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN to apologize.

NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN might have admitted that they were 100% wrong but I don't think too many dark-skinned folk think that they are 100% sincere. 

They should have apologized before they were outted and trounced.

UPDATE: Video of the police with guns talking to the women after they were thrown off.  I promise you, this going national is what prompted the NAPA VALLEY WINE TRAIN remorse.

By they way don't forget about the black family that was arrested for cheering too loud at a graduation in Mississippi.