A wine train that runs through California's famed Napa Valley apologized on Tuesday to a predominantly black women's book club whose members complained of discrimination after they were kicked off a recent trip over noise complaints.
Eleven members of the Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club were removed from the vintage train on Saturday after other passengers complained the group was too loud.
The expulsion sparked widespread anger on social media after the book club's leader posted about it on Facebook.
"The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100 percent wrong in its handling of this issue," wine train Chief Executive Officer Anthony Giaccio said in a written statement. "We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests."
The incident comes as the country grapples with the persistent issues of racism and discrimination following high-profile police killings of unarmed black men since last year that have triggered waves of angry protests and a renewed civil rights movement under the banner of "Black Lives Matter."
The book club's leader, Lisa Johnson, said on Facebook after the incident that she was humiliated by the ordeal, claiming train staff "paraded us through 6 cars on display in front of the other guests to waiting police like we were criminals."
Johnson also criticized a since-removed Facebook posting by the train company that accused the women of being verbally and physically abusive to the other passengers.
Giaccio apologized for the inaccurate posting, saying it was made in haste. He said train staff would undergo diversity training and offered to host the women and enough friends to fill a train car as his guests.
Sam Singer, a spokesman for the wine train, said an individual or group is asked to leave the train over actions that interfere with other passengers about once a month.
The controversy sparked outrage on social media, with an online petition demanding an apology from the train company gathering some 13,000 signatures by Tuesday.
"Race-based misophonia: a sound-induced disorder afflicting whites in the presence of black fun," Emory University political science professor Michael Leo Owens quipped on Twitter, followed by the hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack.
The train has run as a tourist attraction since 1864, offering dining services to passengers as the antique railcars cut through the scenic vineyards of California's wine country, according to the train's website.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Mohammad Zargham) / Photo credit: Lisa Renee Johnson/Facebook