On Saturday afternoon, the Sistahs on the Reading Edge, a book club made up of 11 African-American women, boarded a Napa Valley Wine Train in California, intent on having a good time. But what started off pleasantly turned into a “humiliating” experience after the women were escorted off the train for laughing and talking too loud.
“It was humiliating. I’m really offended, to be quite honest,” Lisa Johnson, 47, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I felt like it was a racist attack on us. I feel like we were being singled out.”
According to the Chronicle, the women—who were seated at two tables in the same car—claim that they were doing what other passengers were doing, ordering wine and enjoying the trip through California’s vineyards and wineries.
Johnson told the newspaper that she and the other women may have been animated, but definitely weren’t “obnoxious or intoxicated.”
A short time after the 11 a.m. Saturday departure, Johnson said the manager on the train approached the members of her group, telling them to quiet down.
“The train is set up to be with your friends, to drink wine and have a good time,” Johnson says. “We were thinking, ‘Who are we offending?’ “
The manager returned a short while later, informing the group, “This isn’t going to work.” She said he added that if the group members didn’t lower their voices, they would be removed from the train.
“It was a bizarre thing for all of us,” Johnson told the Chronicle. She noted that many in the group did lower their voices, but that didn’t stop what came next.
According to the Chronicle, once the train arrived at the St. Helena station, the entire book club, which included an 83-year-old grandmother, was not only asked to leave the train but was greeted by officers of the St. Helena Police Department.
“People were looking at us,” Johnson said, adding that they had to walk past all the other members of the train in order to leave. “To get escorted into the hands of waiting police officers. That’s the humiliating part.”