On Saturday, a group of black women boarded a luxurious wine train in Napa Valley, California. Their journey ended prematurely, as they were ousted following complaints that they were laughing too loudly.
This past Saturday morning, 12 women, including an 83-year-old grandmother, boarded the Napa Valley Wine Train to enjoy an 18-mile tour through wine country while sipping local varieties and nibbling gourmet cheese. The women are members of a book club called Sisters of the Reading Edge and had been planning this trip since November.
Lisa Renee Johnson, a member of the club, posted photos on Facebook and explained that she and her friends had been enjoying the ride, the wine and the company but were soon “humiliated” when a train employee informed them that other passengers had complained that they were too loud. According to Johnson, the group quieted down but was then told they were too loud a second time and were eventually escorted off the train and met by officers.
It appears that one white female passenger in particular had a problem with the group.
Johnson told SFGate.com that she flippantly remarked, “This isn’t a bar.”
Johnson posted a picture of the flippant passenger on Facebook, with her own response in the caption: “We are a group of 12… if we all laugh at the same time it’s loud! When we get to St. Helena they are putting us off the train.”
The book club ladies were all refunded, but later The Napa Valley Wine Train wrote on Facebook that the women were relocated because of “verbal and physical abuse towards other guests and staff.” This statement was soon after removed from the business’s page.
Johnson told SFGate that the whole encounter was humiliating and “I felt like it was a racist attack on us. I feel like we were being singled out.”
Since Saturday, their story has been shared online under the hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack and the company’s Yelp profile has been flooded with horrendous reviews.
Jennifer B, a white passenger who boarded the train in 2005, like many Yelp reviewers commenting on the account believes that the ousting was likely racially motivated.
“I was on the dome car with my cousin,” Jennifer explains on her Yelp review. “We drank. A lot. Laughed, stumbled down the stairs to use the bathroom and licked our plates. We were never even glanced at.” She wonders if she “walked on that train with a group of my white friends and laughed and drank would I have been escorted off?”