By The Huffington Post By Kira Brekke
Just last week, “Django Unchained” actress Danielle Watts was allegedly mistaken for a prostitute after she was seen kissing her white boyfriend.
The story made headlines and raised awareness about the ever-present racial profiling that continues to permeate our society. Unfortunately, though, Watt’s story has a similar narrative to another situation involving a group of women and a security guard at the Standard Hotel in New York City.
Kantaki Washington, the executive director of Sol Afrik, and her two friends were invited to the downstairs bar at the swanky West Village hotel by a group of men they met in the lobby. An African American man walked up to their table to talk to the women but was quickly escorted out by a security guard, which the women thought was “odd.”
However, before the security guard walked away, he looked at the three women and said, “Come on, ladies, you can buy drinks here, but you cannot solicit.”
Washington and her friends were confused and questioned the guard.
“We were like, ‘What are you saying?’ So he was like, ‘Come on, ladies, you know what you’re doing. There’s no soliciting here,'” she told HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski.
And then the women realized what was going on — they were the only African American women at the hotel at the time, and they were being accused of prostitution.
“That’s when I stood up and explained, ‘Look, I have a legal background, I went to law school, what are you saying? These women are educators. There’s no way that we are here soliciting, nor do we have any reason to solicit.’ And he was like, ‘I don’t really care who you are,'” Washington said.
Washington and her friends wanted an apology and asked the manager how to get in touch with guest services, but they were given a “hesitant” reaction. It wasn’t until a reporter later found out about their story that the Standard started giving them more attention.
“When a reporter got the story and reached out to [the Standard], all of a sudden they were ready, willing and able to have conversations with us,” Washington said.
The hotel subsequently emailed Washington, offering to sponsor a dinner for her and her friends that she said would have amounted to about $400 and a bottle of champagne. However, the women found the offer offensive.
“For us, it was kind of an insult to be given a dinner. We felt like we’re professional women, we can kind of afford that,” she said. “We think there should be more of a greater action taken on behalf of the hotel. They need to make sure that patrons feel comfortable, that they have a good image and also to rectify the situation. We were the only African American women in there.”
Since the story has become more public, Washington is considering the role that racial-profiling may have played in the security guard’s highly offensive behavior.
“I’m not saying maybe race was an issue, but I can say we were the only African American women in there and they targeted us for prostitution immediately,” she said. “No questions asked, and there was no apology that was given on the spot.”