‘Whites only’

Because we live in a post-racial society.

The Naples Ritz-Carlton apparently granted a request by a British family to be served only by white people and people without “foreign accents.”  (Don’t Americans have “foreign accents” to British people?)  Their preference was duly noted in the computer system:

“As per [managing director] Mr. Staros,” the system reads, “this couple is very, very prejudice and [do not] like ppl of color or foreign accents.”


Edward V. Staros is apparently an “ethics authority” for the chain and even travels to other Ritz-Carlton hotels to train staff.

As a result, a waiter of Haitian descent was blocked from serving the family.  He is now suing the hotel chain.

The linked ABC article notes the Ritz-Carlton aims to please:

For that price, the hotel prides itself in knowing what guests want. Everything from the way guests like their eggs cooked, or the type of newspaper they read is entered into the chain’s computer system. If a Ritz guest likes to have chilled San Pellegrino in the room, that will be noted in the system and the sparkling water will be there for waiting upon their next stay at any Ritz hotel.

Makes me wonder what else is available through the Ritz hotels.

But “white only” requests aren’t that uncommon (and I know this from personal experience). In 2003, Abington Memorial Hospital (PA) ordered all staff members of color not to enter a patient’s room at her husband’s request.

At Milton Keynes Hospital (Buckinghamshire UK), a patient requested and was granted white staff. Here’s a quote from the hospital’s “Equality Director”:

“You hear about this sort of thing in America but not in England. The staff involved would have been devastated. If I worked there and I was told I couldn’t treat a patient because of my colour, I would be devasted.” Milton Keynes Hospital’s own policy, ‘Managing Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Employment’, says excluding people of certain races from particular jobs constitutes direct discrimination.

This case was in late 2009, so maybe we should send the director a link to the Ritz-Carlton article.  I guess technically this didn’t happen in England.

What this demonstrates to me is that policy makers in the institutions understand the desire to be surrounded only by white people. In addition, they are afraid of “offending” racist people. In the Bizarro World in which we live, “racist” is a dirty, offensive word and the actual racism is secondary. The implication is that pleasing white people is paramount.

Bjorn Hanson, an associate professor of hospitality and tourism management at New York University, was quoted in the article as follows:

While he wouldn’t comment on the specific Ritz-Carlton case, Hanson said that if he ever got such a request, he would tell the guest: “Our employees are all well-trained and are prepared to and look forward to serving all guests. We really aren’t able or willing to compromise our service by granting that request.”

“If the guest chooses to stay elsewhere,” Hanson added, “it is actually is positive because word gets around to the employees that they are truly valued.”

Hanson is much more tactful than I am, as I would probably tell the family they weren’t welcome in my hotel. Aware of the public relations nightmare it has created, the Ritz-Carlton has banned the family from the hotel chain. Too little, too late. The damage has already been done.


7 thoughts on “‘Whites only’

  1. When I worked in college, there were people that would come in occasionally and be overtly racist, not want people of color touching their food. Although I can’t say that it was always a great place to work, any time there was an issue like this the management (all white men) always supported the side of the employees, and the rude patrons were told if they did not want people of color touching their food- they could go elsewhere. I always found this impressive- being the South and 1970’s- it could have easily gone the other way.

  2. I’ve worked in hotels like the Ritz and this is sadly not surprising. The guest records and comments I’ve read over the years are horrible. Hotels in general posted their worst year since the Depression in 2009, so more of these kinds of requests are going to fly with managers–nearly always white–in order to keep business. Hotel management is beyond myopic and it often takes something like a lawsuit to change things.

    Bjorn Hanson has a good idea, but I too, would have evicted the family. I wonder how those “guests” feel about housekeepers, as those departments are almost exclusively people of color?


  3. I apologise on behalf of my country and my race. I’m really sorry, really I am. And I am horrified the stories about the hospitals – I work in the NHS and we’ve always given an answer similar to the quote above if anyone requests something racist – ‘Im sure that getting the best possible care is more important to you than the race of your doctors and nurses’. But I don’t think there’s a nationwide policy on this – I will look into it.

  4. Seriously. You’d think people would want all the business they could get. But it’s still just really all the business from white people they can get.

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