The CEO of Napa Valley Wine Train is apologizing after a group of women, most of them black, were kicked off one of its trains over the weekend for allegedly being too loud. But one of them, Lisa Renee Johnson, says her friends still feel humiltated and that the incident was "racially charged."
The incident took place on Saturday. Johnson and 10 other members of the Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club, all black except one, were escorted off a train by police. A Napa Valley Wine Train rep told The Napa Valley Register on Sunday that at least three passengers in the same car complained about the women's noise level.
Johnson documented the events on Facebook, along with photos and the hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack. Following her posts and press coverage, scores of people began to post negative reviews about the company on Yelp.
"We were truly kicked out because we were 'laughing while black'... It was racially charged," Johnson told NBC Bay Area.
Sam Singer, a spokesman for the Napa Valley Wine Train, told The New York Times, "No, it's not racism, it's acute insensitivity" and that the staff will undergo additional sensitivity training.
Napa Valley Wine Train CEO Anthony "Tony" Giaccio contacted Johnson late on Monday and spoke to her to apologize. She told NBC Bay Area that Giaccio's apology "wasn't authentic."