Hours Before Rally to Restore Sanity: A Moment Less Than Sane

Send by email
Dori Maynard
November 9, 2010

The Maynard Institute’s Fault Line Framework is a diversity tool that teaches people to talk to each other with the goal of understanding. Dori J. Maynard, who has been refining the framework, will write a regular feature about living on the Fault Lines. This is her first entry.

A few hours before the recent Rally to Restore Sanity, the general manager of a Hampton Inn in Washington, D.C. kicked me out of his hotel, forcing me to stand on the street to wait for my colleague in 39-degree weather.

The incident began when I arrived early for a breakfast meeting with a program officer from one of the major foundations that supports the nonprofit I run. We were in town for the Online News Association’s annual convention and wanted to catch up.

After looking around the lobby, I settled on a seat at a table where I could watch the elevators.

Right in front of me was an older white guy wearing a T-shirt with the word “eracism” emblazoned on the back. Given that the tenor of our national conversation these days has me increasingly fearful about where this country is heading, I was touched to see him making such a strong statement and got up to tell him so.

He was in town for the rally, and we discussed that and the general mood in the nation. When the conversation ran its course, I turned to return to my seat.

That’s when the general manager stopped me and asked if I was a guest at the hotel. I explained I was not but was there for a business meeting with a guest. “Ma’am, you’ll have to leave the hotel,” he said, leading me through the lobby and toward the doors.

I thought he had misunderstood, so I repeated that I was in fact there at the invitation of a hotel guest. “Ma’am, you’ll have to leave the hotel,” he repeated. Slowly, I began to realize that this was no case of “mistaken identity.”

The general manager apparently had deemed me so undesirable that he did not think I was fit to sit in the lobby of his Hampton Inn.

Somewhat disoriented, I managed to have the presence of mind to tell the front desk clerk to call my colleague and let him know that I would be unable to meet him in the lobby as planned because I was being escorted out of the hotel.

The general manager and I watched as she spoke into the phone. Clearly, I was there to meet a paying guest. But the general manager continued to repeat, “Ma’am, you’ll have to leave the hotel.”

People have asked why I did not refuse to leave and then insist that he call the police.

I think that the truth is I was blindsided.

My professional life is all about working with the news media to ensure that all segments of our society are accurately and fairly portrayed. I often speak of the corrosive effects of skewed media images on our public policy and personal lives.

As a person of color in this country, I have many times felt as if I am under greater scrutiny, so I compensate and arm myself as best I can. I consciously try to act in a way that reassures those around me.

Taking a cue from my father, I try to dress as well as possible, almost as if I’m sending up a silent prayer that if I look like this, maybe you won’t treat me like that.

But walking into a hotel lobby a for a business meeting is such a mundane and common occurrence in my life that it never dawned on me to be on guard.

It wasn’t only the manager who blindsided me. Equally shocking was my own reaction.

We have programs that teach people how to talk across difference, including not internalizing another person’s negative reaction. Intellectually, I knew this had nothing to do with me. Yet all I felt was shame.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., was roundly criticized for screaming “you don’t know who you’re messing with,” according to a police report, as the Cambridge cop arrested him in his own home.

I wanted to shout the same thing, not as an arrogant assertion of my authority but as an anguished cry for recognition of our shared humanity.

“You don’t know who I am. I could be your mother, your sister, your cousin or your aunt. I am a fellow human, not something to be discarded on the street.”

I said none of that.

The closest I came was, “Why are you doing this to me? You know I am meeting someone here.” Even I could hear the weakness in my voice, further deepening my sense of humiliation. That was the only time the general manager deviated from his script., saying, “We have to protect our other guests. Ma’am, you’ll have to leave the hotel.”

I made one more lame attempt to assert myself and asked for his name. He thrust his card at me, opened the front door of the hotel and ushered me into the cold. The card identified him as Joseph Galvan, General Manager of Hampton Inn Washington DC Convention Center.

Stunned, I stood shivering on the street wondering what the heck had just happened to me.

People have asked me whether I want Galvan fired. The truth is I don’t want him ever to do this to someone else, particularly someone younger and truly vulnerable. But firing him won’t solve the problem.

As I pointed out after NPR recently fired Juan Williams, just because you shut someone down doesn’t mean you’ve lifted up the issue.

Our Fault Lines framework teaches that it will be very difficult for us to reach common ground until we learn to have the difficult conversations around charged issues. That’s what I would like to see happen this time.

I would like to sit down and have a conversation with the general manager and his colleagues. I want to know what and who he saw when he looked at me in the lobby of his hotel. I want to discuss his underlying assumptions and how he came to them.

After hearing about what had happened to me, my cousin Peter looked up the company on the Internet and learned that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had sued one of its Indianapolis properties about a month ago. I’d like to talk to company representatives and learn what happened and what they think about both of these incidents. I’d also like to know what the company’s guidelines are for escorting people out of the lobby.

This is what we teach and preach in our media work because we don’t think we have a chance to restore our national sanity if we can’t even determine how to have a civil conversation with each other.

 
  

Comments

your article about the hotel lobby

I just finished reading your first article, good work!@ Keep it up, I only want to add that for years I lived in New Orleans and the broadcasters association held their annual meetings in town. My married friends always stayed in a suite at one specific place and I knew their manager well. 

I was there to collect my friends from the sixth floor of private suites when the elevator captain did the same thing to me... it seems that it isn't a bit racial at all, it's a hooker's charge... same thing as "loitering" in a public place in Las Vegas... Go know!

It's still racist even if it's also sexist.

If it's true that the manager thought she was a prostitute, it doesn't mean he wasn't racist. Women of color are much more likely to be labeled in such a way than white women, regardless of dress, manner, age, etc.

In the hotel lobby

If I were a woman, I would strive to carry myself in manner similar to Dori Maynard. It is therefore very troubling that anyone, let alone a supposed professional in the hospitality industry, would not give her the time to explain, or that he would assume the worst. What chance would a younger, more inexperienced woman have in such situations?  

Carrying one's self

The thing is that it shouldn't matter how Ms. Maynard or any other woman carries herself. No one deserves to be treated the way that she was.

A Moment Less Than Sane

Hello Dori. I just read your column and I'm flabbergasted. How would you like us as Maynard devotees and Fault Lines followers to respond? I use Hampton Inn a lot in my travels. Do I need to boycott? Should I write a note to Mr. Galvan telling him he's the reason I won't be patronizing his hotel chain? Have you sent him a link to your column? I'm about to. Just let me know what you need to me do.

Denise Bridges, The Virginian-Pilot and MIJE alum

Hotel Lobby Ejection

This is one of those strange but true stories that we hear from time to time when people with some authority abuse that authority by showing poor judgement in some action or statement. I would be willing to bet that this hotel manager would swear that he doesn't have a prejudiced bone in his body and that he would have done the same thing to anyone under the circumstances. The fallacy with many people who behave in apparently irrational ways is that they often do not understand that what they did may have been wrong. They really believe that what to most people appears foolish and irresponsible makes perfect sense. It's like a police officer zapping an elderly man with dementia with a lazer gun causing death and then justifying it on the grounds that the man acted irrationally and in a threatening manner.  I think you did the right thing by leaving because you would likely have put your personal safety at risk had you resisted. That said, this hotel manager should have to answer for his actions. If you were acting lawfully and peacefully what right did he have to force you to leave a public establishment even if you were not a guest? Hotels are public retail establishments that often host public events not always exclusively for guests. This appears to be the case in this instance. If you feel that your civil rights were possibly violated don't you have a responsibility to yourself and the greater good to take action? 

Loitering with Intent

Dori:

You were evicted for "loitering with intent." When I was a child in Mississippi during the '50s and '60s and it happened to my "God Mother" Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and her colleagues during their fight for civil rights, it was called "disturbing the peace."

I feel your pain, but just as your dad taught me as a member of his MJP class of 1972, the pen (now the "click") is mightier than the sword.

You were an African American female alone then or so he thought, but you are never really alone, and he didn't "know who he was messing with." Let him know now!

Tell the story, pursue answers and results, and seek civil redress from Hampton Inn's corporate officers with the primary question being; How many other people in the lobby that morning were asked whether they were registered guests. If the manager did not ask every female, you were discriminated against.  If there were no signs visible in the lobby explaining "Unregistered are not permitted to sit in the lobby waiting for the arrival of a hotel guest, or potential guest with a reservation recorded." Then the practice, if not the policy is discriminatory. I speak here as a former Human Rights Investigator. 

Carefully consider the basis for your complaint with the DC Human Rights Commission. In DC: Race, Sex, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Age, and Physical Handicap is covered, and are basis for filing claims. If the manager claims his action was not based on race, then ask the number of White women, or men he had questioned the same morning.

Keep the faith, and remember "Living well is still the best revenge.

John Milton Wesley

 

Hampton Inn

It must be a male thing, but anyone touching me in a forceful way would be dealt with; not a fight, but no one is allowed to handle another like that without provocation. While this event may have stunned you momentarily, refusing to leave (maintaining your seat) would have prompted him to either call security or the police and then you would have had another opportunity to explain the Manager's behavior was inappropriate. What concerns me more is the conclusion that all this guy needs is a sit-down, Beer Summitt redux, when he needs his ass kicked in court, in the media (of which you would have extraordinary support considering your pedigree) and this Manager and his company would be on front street. These folks need to be punished, not talked to. This is Pres. Obama's biggest flaw, believing that "We can all get along if we just discuss the issue" in the face of a Repub party that HATES him, whose leaders declare him a one-term president and who do hesitate to vilify him, his wife and even his children. Evil must be fought and punished, not mollified as if their standards are our own.  Sue this jerk so that other African-American women will not have to endure the cold of DC in such an unwarrented manner. Jus' sayin'.

I don't think it's a matter

I don't think it's a matter of "just discuss the issue".  I think the US has a big problem in refusing to discuss systemic racism, even while most people vilify obvious individual racists.

Inexplicable

Dori, I commend your calm response, and you shouldn't second-guess yourself for not confronting Mr. Galvan. Clearly, he wasn't interested in anything you had to say. I am willing to bet that he is, or will be, interested in what you have to say now. I, for one, have written corporate headquarters of Hampton Inn and asked for an explanation, adding a link to your column. Frankly, I don't deserve or expect one, but you certainly do.

Tom

outrageous conduct, but not the first or last time

Legally permitted or not (a hotel lobby is not public space; "loitering with intent"), what happened to you was an outrage and my heart goes out to you for the humiliation and indignity you experienced. It was wrong. 

Your experience also reminded me of a conversation I had several years ago with Arnold Perkins, then head of Alameda County's public health department. Dr. Perkins is an avid fly fisherman, and he told me about visiting New York for a conference, and stopping into a sports store during a break to buy some flies for an upcoming trip. 

A clerk followed him up and down the aisles, asking him why he was there, what did he want to buy, was he *really* interested in fly fishing, etc. At first, Perkins took the questions as evidence of a solicitous clerk, but as he was followed around the store, despite his remonstrations, he realized that he was being watched. The "help" didn't let up until he had made his purchase and walked out the door. 

What struck me about the story, other than the obvious stereotypes at play (black men don't fish) was the anger and humiliation that Perkins still felt years afterward as he recounted his story to me in his office, with a view of the Oakland skyline and any number of professional honors and commendations framed on the walls. 

How hard can it be for people to treat others as people? Dori, you're a classy lady who should be treasured and treated with respect in any environment, hotel lobbies included. What happened to you was wrong. 

 

Hotel Lobby Incident

How terrible that you were treated in that way, Dori.  I know exactly what you mean when you felt shame. Predjudice is alive and well and rears its ugly head yet again.  I believe at the hotel employee would not have acted in that way unless his managers had in some way showed him that it is OK.

I feel terrible for you. I hope that you pursue this issue, and, I disagree with you, I think he should be fired.  We cannot act on a global scale, we need to influence the world one person at a time.  Trust me, if he is fired over this incident, plenty of people who think the same way he does, will know about it. Word of mouth is VERY powerful. Best to you.

I just emailed the hotel and

I just emailed the hotel and asked them to apologize or I will boycott.  Anyone want to join?

 

Re: complaining

I submitted a complaint form online, asking them to arrange a meeting between the manager and Ms. Maynard.  They gave this response to me and to one of the emails here, and I don't know what to do next if anything. I also can't email Ms. Maynard directly it seems.

Dear Dori Maynard,   Thank you for contacting our corporate executive offices regarding the embarrassing incident that occurred at the Hampton Inn Washington-Convention Center. I ask that you accept our most sincere apologies; the events of that day do not in any way reflect the theme of hospitality synonymous with our portfolio of brands. I have been in contact with the hotels General Manager and it is to our understanding that he communicated with your office. Please, at your convenience provide a telephone number that you may be reached on as we would appreciate your acknowledgement and response to this concern. This entire incident as you described in detail is under review and will be addressed in further detail internally to avoid a re occurrence. Thank you for your patience.   Sincerely,  Anthony Ndikanwu

Outrageous hotel lobby incident

Of course the son of a bitch should be fired. What on earth was he doing? Sorry Dori , but beautiful as you are, you don't look like a hooker. So what other possible excuse could he have? Considering the population of DC it is hard to believe that your color was the issue; if it were he would be hard pressed to stay in business. But, who knows? I would certainly want to know what was in his stupid mind. I will certainly boycott that Hampton Inn, for what that is worth, but more to the point, I think a public ' explanation' and apology should come from him and the company to prevent a wholesale boycotting of the entire company by people of color and ALL women.

I think u should not have

I think u should not have backed down and u should've asserted your rights.. last I checked u have a right to visit a guest and that guest a paying customer should've checked that situation. I understand, being shocked and caught off guard, but we as adults have got to stay trained at all times.. and by that I mean have an arsenal of options at hand.. That man would not have a job if for any reason to protect our own.. He was protecting hotel guest, well its on us to protect 'Ray Ray and Tenisha who may not have had the status, tact and presence of mind to not overact in such a situation.. I hope to God you follow up.. and I hope your collegue did not let this slide.. 200 bucks a night? lemme find out some hotel escorted my guest out.. That /(you) could've been my mother

send an email, letter, call

I plan to email the Hampton Inn, owned by the Hiltons, to ask them to explain and apologize for this action.  Can I encourage others to do the same?

https://secure.hilton.com/en/hp/feedback/index.jhtml;jsessionid=OKYU3YOY...

Thanks for your calm and courage Dori.

Hampton Inn-D.C. and an eviction

Dori,

I am sorry to hear that you was treated so shabbily.

When you visited Hampton U. to speak at the [Earl] Caldwell Cafe, I observed that you are understated to a fault, and your instinct is to make peace rather than instigate fights.

So it is bizarre to read that you was booted out of a normally well-run chain hotel because you was waiting to meet a colleague.

This manager has a lot of explaining to do. Is he a loose cannon, or has something gone awry with normally pleasant Hampton Inns?

Please contact Hilton

I have never heard about anything like this happening. I, too, will be contacting Hampton Inn's parent company to question the treatment. I hope hundreds, thousands will do the same.

Dorie, thank you for shariing your experience in such and calm and thoughtful manner.

 

 

Hampton Hotel lobby incident

Dori, that is outrageous, and all the more so because the moron doggedly refused to consider a reasonable explanation. Seems like Hampton didn't live up to its motto "we love having you here."  I hope the person you were meeting filed a complaint as well.

Dori

Ironically, in Malta some people look like Dori because we are an eclectic mixture of genes. However, the point is this: what explanation did this sad excuse for a human offer to Dori's colleague when she was not seen to be in the lobby, as expected? Would he have acted in the same way if Dori had had Asian or Latino or Native American or Slavic features? Or is it just Afro-Americans to whom he has an aversion?

One could also tweet

One could also tweet @HamptonFYI and let them know how you feel.

Ms. Maynard, I am so sorry this happened to you.

This story needs to be circulated far and wide.

It's horrific.  I'm doing my part to get the word out.

Mental rehearsal

I think the only way most people could respond in a satisfactory way in such a situation would be to mentally rehearse it. Identify ahead of time what key points you want to make ("Is this really good for your business reputation? Is this really within the policy of this establishment? Here is MY card, I expect a full written explanation for your conduct.") Whatever, I'm just tossing out ideas here. But don't beat yourself up over your lack of response on the scene to such an unexpected event. Few people can think on their feet that fast (and the ones that can tend to be con men . . . ;-)

The note I sent to Hilton

I wanted to add my voice as someone interested in knowing the full story behind this: http://mije.org/hours-rally-restore-sanity-moment-less-sane. I'd particularly like to know if Mr. Galvan's actions reflect Hilton policy, and if not, why he did not verify Ms. Maynard's claim that she had legitimate business there before ejecting her. Thanks for your attention to this matter.

To be clear: Given what I've read here, I do feel certain Mr. Galvan was making bigoted assumptions about you. I just wanted to emphasize that he deserved a chance to respond (however insufficient I'm sure his response will be), and that a real explanation of the situation, rather than a boilerplate apology and restatement of a nondiscrimination policy, is required.

hotel could have external pressure

While I don't know what the political/police climate is in DC, the police put a lot of pressure on hotel managers in my area to discourage sex workers from utilizing their hotels.

It used to be in Victorian times a woman could never walk in public unescorted as not to be mistaken for a prostitute. It seems in hotels, this is still very true.

Sexism, racism and fear of sex workers all rolled into one ugly ball.

I'm so sorry

I'm so sorry that this was done to you.  It was wrong, and there is no excuse.

Backlash of WSI

Dear Ms. Maynard,

I am sorry to hear about this unfortunate experience. I also know what it feels like to be stunned by WSI (white supremacist ideology) and/or discrimination.  The employee more or less felt empowered by those who hired him, and so confronting the hotel system would probably not do any good--cause they will get lawyered up and close ranks.  In their eyes, they will blame you and paint you as the victim and will not take responsbility for their actions.  Even if you were to find a good hearted soul he or she could not speak on your behalf because they would more than likely lose their job.  Silencing people of color and our experiences are part of the WSI operational manual.

I think sharing your pain here is enough, and in time, after you get over the shock you will determine the best action for yourself and those who need your nurturing and support. However you fight and what you do will be done in the name of social justice.  Please know that speaking out the way you have in this article helps to break the silent and not so silent epidemic of racism that exists in our country. Yes, we have made progress but their is still much more learning and growth that will occur.

As an African American researcher/educator/citizen of the world, who has thought about and studied WSI, white racial identity, and oppressive psychological acts of harm, these types of interpersonal instances of disrespect will increase in number and not decrease. 

His bold actions were most likely born out of a growing and bubbling frustration that many people who have embraced whiteness as a way to disadvantage others are feeling displaced in society.  Thus from his own personal of feeling of displacement he then had to try to displace you.  On a simplistic metric, this minor act can not help him cope with the underlying paradox he must face. We must live and work in a multiethnic society.  

It is interesting that he, the manager, saw you talking to a man who was wearing an eracism T-shirt which more than likely provoked the bubbling ire and anger of feeling displaced.

All of this is backlash, and I am sharing with you and all of the readers here, that more instances of this will come.  Some people who have embraced an illusive identity, are now fearful about people confronting their personal illusions.  They, the beliefs often garnered with sculpting this illusion, have to change because the society we live in is changing. As my grandmother used to say, the chicken always comes home to roost.

You are not alone in this experience, and you did nothing wrong. I am proud that you took the time to document your experience with racism.  We always move through these experiences not as reminders of a painful past but as present entities that we must put into historical perspective. 

If anything, if this happend to me here is what I would do.  I would write a letter to his family members to share with them what their loved one has done.  As a descendant of enslaved Africans, here is what part of my legacy has taugh me-it is only through the eyes and ears of those we love can we be truly changed, not by those who employ us.

With much respect

Brian Ragsdale

brianragsdale3@gmail.com

Wrong, but not racism

This manager obviously acted without courtesy. He should have been responsive to your explanation.

However, my guess is that the hotel has had a history of  solicitation. From the manager's perspective: A solo individual, not a guest of the hotel, gets up and appoaches a solo male guest. After a brief conversation with this seeming stranger, she turns away.

This looks like a case of solicitation. The person above who commented that Ms. Maynard doesn't "look like a hooker" exhibits an ignorance of sex workers, who come in all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, skin tones, and perceived levels of attractiveness. Many women who work hotel lobbies present themselves professionally and 'carry themselves well.'

If anything, this is a case of of bias against sex workers spilling out and affecting the general public. I'm in favor of legalizing prostitution, but even if that happened, a hotel is still a private establishment which is allowed to limit their premises to paying guests.

I'm not justifying the manager's actions - he jumped to conclusions too quickly, and wasn't receptive to the reasonable explanation offered.

I feel very strongly about fighting racism in the United States and worldwide - but to jump to assumptions that an action was committed because of racism without evidence does not help the cause.

 

 

 

I am currently arguing with

I am currently arguing with someone who maintains that the hotel manager was within his rights to escort you out because the hotel was probably way too crowded from the rally held nearby. She attended the rally and repaired to the Renaissance afterward and found it too crowded.  I iterated that you were at the Hampton in the morning, but that did not convince her.  I wasn't there (DC) so cannot comment from personal experience, but wondered if you would be willing to respond to this.  Thank you.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.