Last night, I was racially profiled and pretty much accused of being a terrorist.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017, I arrived at Haven Rooftop at The Sanctuary Hotel for a press event called “Haven’s Summer Kickoff Party.” Of course, I was excited to attend; New York City Rooftop, close friends in attendance, cocktails, food, and with a PR firm I absolutely adore. I was certain it was going to be a good afternoon. However, My joy and spirit were broken within minutes of walking through the doors of The Sanctuary Hotel.
I arrived a few minutes before the PR team and waited in line as Gabriel asked each patron, what party were they attending. I told him I was attending Haven Rooftop‘s press event. He then continued down the line. When it was time for me to get on the elevator, Gabriel told the young lady at coat check to check all backpacks. Gabriel came back over to me saying my bag needed to be checked, then he walked away before I could ask him why. I think I deserve to know why I’m being singled out, especially because I did not have a backpack. I had a very slim denim Levi’s bag that hangs one shoulder. Since he abruptly walked away, I asked the coat check personnel. She told me they just needed to check bags. I wasn’t given a reason why, so I asked her if I could speak with a manager. She said Gabriel was head of security and he would be the person to speak with.
One of the doormen got his attention, on my behalf, and I asked him why did my bag need to be checked? He said, “because of the world that we live in.” As he is saying this to me, I’m noticing several people proceed to the elevators with much larger bags and purses. Of course, they were white, mostly female. I asked him, “why are you allowing this group to go up with large bags without checking them in. There could be a gun or a bomb in their bags? How are you ensuring my safety if you’re being selective?” He said, “it has been proven that terrorists are mostly men!” I could not believe my ears! Where was all of this hostility and anger coming from? A terrorist could be an old white woman standing behind me in line as he spewed his hate speech at me. As a matter of fact, 94% of terrorist attacks carried out in the United States from 1980 to 2005 have been by non-Muslims. TIME also reported White Extremists Have Killed More Americans in the U.S. Than Jihadists Since 9/11. Because I’m a black man, I could be a terrorist, I’m confused.
Back to my story, with a lobby full of patrons standing around, I remembered yelling to the top of my lungs, “That is the most sexist and dumbest thing I have ever heard in my entire life. How are you allowed to run security with your way of thinking?” I also told him I am not checking my bag based on his asinine policy. He was rude and very unapologetic. Gabriel must have realized how dumb he sounded because all of a sudden it was ok for me to go upstairs with my bag, but he needed to have a look inside. I asked him, why isn’t he checking everyone’s bag, including females? His response? “Well is your bag a man bag?” I told him it is whatever you want it to be. At this point the PR team was arriving, I took it upon myself to show everyone standing around what was inside. A charging cord, portable charger, an expensive camera, my glasses, and umbrella; items needed for me to do my job….as a blogger, not a terrorist.
Luckily the PR team ushered me in as Gabriel continued with his sexist and racist behavior (more on that below). My only reason for going upstairs was to see my friends. I’m so glad they did not have to witness the embarrassing situation. When I got upstairs I was still in disbelief and visibly shaken. The PR team apologized repeatedly even though they had absolutely nothing to do with this nor did they know the extent of the discrimination I faced. I never got an apology from any staffers at the hotel. I did ask to speak with a general manager but I was only referred to Gabriel!
The event itself was crowded with partygoers but I couldn’t enjoy it, I was disgusted. I laughed and conversed with my friends to suppress my true feelings. I couldn’t stop talking about it to anyone who would listen. Even as I slept, the incident played over and over in my mind. This morning I woke up with the decision to talk about this on my blog. Why? because I am pissed off and sick of this shit!
I took a break from blogging and logged onto Facebook, at the top of my feed was a status from my friend Phaon (of luxuriousprototype.com). It reads:
Sooo I won’t be going to Haven Rooftop-Sanctuary Hotel ever again! Yesterday, my friend and I were racially profiled by the doorman (Gabriel) while entering a private event (Haven’s Summer Kickoff Party) that I was invited to and was checked in with wrist band. Article coming soon!
Phaon later updated his status after I called The Sanctuary Hotel to verify Gabriel’s position with the front desk staff.
I sent him a private message immediately to let him know I experienced the same thing. To be clear, I had absolutely no idea my friend would be in attendance and to see he went through a similar situation just moments after I did, with the same man, is unbelievable. But it happened and he will share his story soon.
I completely understand the world we are living is dangerous and we are all on “pins and needles.” I’m happy to follow rules of any establishment as long as it applies to everyone. I know in my heart I was singled out by Gabriel because I am a young man of color. The Sanctuary Hotel / Haven Rooftop cannot continue to operate this way. I want to know why black people are treated this way? What is this accomplishing?
Going forward, I will take my business to places that openly welcome people of color.
Earlier this week, I received a call from Jeremy Poon, VP of Operations at The Sanctuary Hotel. He was very apologetic and informed me that the hotel does not condone this type of behaviour. Without going too much into detail, Poon did let me know what actions are being taken with this particular security personnel and other staff members to ensure patrons are treated equally and fairly when visiting the establishment. I am extremely happy with the results. After the 20 minute conversations, I felt more comfortable about returning to The Sanctuary Hotel and Haven Rooftop in the very near future.