Women kicked off Wine Train: Laughing While Black

Published: August 25, 2015

Women kicked off Wine Train: Laughing While Black, The mostly African-American members of a women’s book club were kicked off the Napa Valley Wine Train last weekend because they were having too good a time: they called it talking and laughing; the train owner and some other passengers called it disruptive.

Eleven members of the Sistahs of the Reading Edge book club were escorted from the train after staff members twice asked them to be less boisterous, according to reports in both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

One of the club’s members, Lisa Johnson, chronicled the journey on her Facebook page, saying at one point that another passenger told the group, “This is not a bar.”

The club members, most of them wearing matching T-shirts, were escorted from the train and deposited in St. Helena, Calif., where police were waiting.

Johnson and her friends said the incident was racially motivated, and the hashtag #laughingwhileblack quickly gained currency on social media.

The Napa Valley Wine Train’s response evolved a bit this week.

“It wasn’t an issue of bias,” train spokesman Sam Singer told the L.A. Times. “It was an issue of noise.”

“No, it’s not racism,” Singer told the N.Y. Times, “it’s acute insensitivity.” He told the Times that staff would undergo additional training.

The company gave each of the women a full refund and, later, an apology. But Lisa Johnson said both were insufficient.

“That was the most humiliating and embarrassing thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” she told the N.Y. Times. “To be paraded through all those cars, all those passengers looking at us, wondering what did we do that was so bad that we were being escorted off that train. All we were doing was laughing, having a good time, and trying to discuss our book.”

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Laughing While Black


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