Home Essays & Reviews Race Watch The Hotel Responds to the Racist Treatment of Professor Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

Race Watch

The Hotel Responds to the Racist Treatment of Professor Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

Vitale Hotel responds to the mistreatment of the prolific professor Ngugi Wa Thiong'o at the Hotel on November 10, 2006. As one of the owners of the Hotel Vitale and Americano restaurant, I want to publicly apologize for the treatment Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o received from one of our employees on November 10. While this employee has a good work history and worked quite closely with Willie Brown when he was doing his radio talk show in our circular lounge for nine months, the truth is that this employee "pre-judged" and disrespected the Professor by assuming he was not a guest in the hotel.

Professor Ezekoye Action

Dear USA Africa Dialogue Community,

I forwarded Professor Ngugi Wa Thiongo's email to the General Manager at the Hotel Vitale and pointed out that since several thousand people had just read the email, some comment should be made by management regarding the insult that had occurred. His reply is shown below. I certainly appreciated his quick response and his clear message that he personally does not tolerate racial prejudice.

Yours truly,

O.A. Ezekoye
Professor and Graduate Advisor
The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Mechanical Engineering
1 University Station, C2200
Austin, TX 78712-0292
512-471-3085
FAX 512-471-1045


The Hotel Responds

From: Rachel Carlton [mailto:rcarl...jdvhospitality.com] On Behalf Of Chip Conley
Sent: Thursday, November 16, 2006 2:30 PM
To: Ofodike A. Ezekoye
Subject: Concerning Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o and the Hotel Vitale & Americano restaurant

November 15, 2006

Dear Community Member,

Prejudice still exists in America. It is real and palpable. While we've all witnessed superficial changes in America over the past four decades, the reality is that people "pre-judge" each other way too much, whether it's based upon skin color, religion, sexual orientation, age, economic status, or some other factor that makes one "the other."

As one of the owners of the Hotel Vitale and Americano restaurant, I want to publicly apologize for the treatment Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o received from one of our employees on November 10. While this employee has a good work history and worked quite closely with Willie Brown when he was doing his radio talk show in our circular lounge for nine months, the truth is that this employee "pre-judged" and disrespected the Professor by assuming he was not a guest in the hotel. Within a few minutes, when this employee was proven wrong, he was remorseful and ashamed and he has been put on leave from work as we review this matter further. What is troubling is that he, along with all of our employees, received mandatory diversity training, yet this incident still happened. I am deeply sorry for the offense this has caused Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o and the community. I have spoken with the author escort for the Professor as well as the publisher's publicity executive who is handling the author tour, who is helping connect me with the Professor so I can express my sincere apologies to him directly.

This is a matter of great importance to me personally. I went to Long Beach Poly High School, one of finest inner city public high schools in America (famous for its African-American scholars, athletes, and artists) and one that I'm still active in supporting. I have a mixed race foster son who identifies as African-American. I am in a long-term relationship with an African-American. I am Finance Chair of the Reverend Cecil Williams' Glide Memorial Church. My company has actively supported all kinds of programs from the Lorraine Hansberry Theater to the Hip-Hop Dance/Theater Festival and we've raised more than .5 million for the Tenderloin Afterschool Program during the last 14 years since we created the annual Celebrity Pool Toss fundraiser. In sum, we have always tried our hardest to assure we are part of the solution, not part of the problem. That is why this incident is personally very troubling for me as we have created a diverse workforce that has high employee satisfaction and, relative to other companies, we have a grass roots track record of respecting our employees, our customers, and the community. Yet, clearly we are not perfect and we need to do better.

Thank you for expressing your sadness, anger, surprise, and anguish. We are using it as a continuing "wake-up call" to assure that every one of our employees respects every single person they come into contact with - whether they are a customer or not. Every human deserves to be respected and acknowledged.

Sincerely,

Chip Conley
Founder & CEO
Joie de Vivre Hospitality

Chip Conley
Founder & CEO
Joie de Vivre Hospitality
567 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415.248.5940 direct
415.835.0317 fax
www.jdvhospitality.com

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Home Essays & Reviews Race Watch The Hotel Responds to the Racist Treatment of Professor Ngugi Wa Thiong'o