On the morning of August 28, Washington, Cydney Madlock and J. Lyn Thomas say a member of the hotel’s security team accused them of being hookers. The women had just come down from Le Bain, a bar at the top of the hotel, and settled in the lobby when several men approached them and offered to buy them drinks. When they sat down at a restaurant inside the hotel, an African-American man approached Washington and her friends and introduced himself. Moments later, Washinton says a security guard from the hotel whispered something in the man’s ear and ushered him away.
“After the security guard ushers the brotha away, he comes over to me and my friends and says, ‘Come on, ladies. You can buy a drink but you can’t be soliciting,'” Washington told AlterNet in an interview. “We were like, soliciting? He said, ‘Don’t act stupid with me, ladies. You know what you’re doing. Stop soliciting in here. We were like, ‘Soliciting what?'”
Shocked, she asked the security guard if he was accusing them of prostitution. “Don’t act stupid with me, you know what you were doing,” Washington recalls the guard saying.
“Dude, I’m a lawyer and these women are educators,” she said in reply. “Why the hell would I be in here soliciting prostitution?” Washington said he answered, “I don’t know but that’s what you’re doing.”
Washington and her friends were the only black women in the area and believe they were racially profiled. Outraged, Washington demanded that the guard give her his name and the name of his manager. The guard gave her his first name only and directed her to the reception desk. When she and her friends approached the manager over their claim, Washington says they were met with indifference. She says the manager then claimed the security guard was outsourced and not technically a staff member.
Several weeks later, Washington received an email from a staff member of the hotel inviting her and “three guests back to The Standard for a bottle of champagne in The Top of The Standard or Le Bain, followed by dinner for 4 (valued at $400) at The Standard Grill.” None of the emails, which Washington provided to AlterNet, addressed the prostitution accusation. When Washington asked about specifics of the offer of dinner in a separate email, the staff person did not mention the prostitution accusation.
“Again, I want to apologize for what happened to you here that evening,” the staff member wrote in a reply. “We are extending this table for 4 as a gesture of goodwill for you and your friends, plus one more person. Please let me know when you would like to come back.”
After repeated attempts to reach hotel management, AlterNet was unable to get anyone to comment on the incident.
Cydney Madlock, who teaches at a charter school in Brooklyn, told AlterNet that the offer of dinner and champagne isn’t good enough.
“We should have some formal apology,” she said. “And the $400 dinner, we all have careers. That’s nothing. We can afford that ourselves. If I want champagne…what is that? I felt like [the security guard] was talking to me like a dog in the street.”
Madlock claims the guard was very hostile and spoke so loudly that other patrons in the eating area could hear their discussion.
“It was crazy,” she said. “He was being rude. It was embarassing and we don’t know who was in that restaurant. My principal could have been in there. What kind of effect would that have been on my career?”
J. Lyn Thomas, a dance teacher in Brooklyn, told AlterNet that she is still upset about what happened that night.
“I’m just in shock that, in 2014, this is something that I had to take time out of my night to handle,” she said. “It’s beyond what I can imagine could happen in 2014. Three black women, and the only reason why we could be there is because we’re soliciting for sex? That’s ridiculous. A lawyer and two people who teach kids for a living. It was very dehumanizing and very degrading. He did it in front of the entire restaurant and they were watching the whole scene. It was humiliating. I’m still in shock. I still can’t believe that happened.”
This is not the only case in which professional black women were mistaken for prostitutes. In Los Angeles, actress Daniele Watts was detained by Studio City police officers this weekend after being accused of prostitution. She was eventually released. Her boyfriend, who is white and was with her at the time, believes they were targeted because they are an interracial couple.