The main issue is not why a black man was asked if he was a guest. Instead, the issue is why he was thrown out once that was established.
I’ve held off on commenting on this case, because I did not want to jump to any conclusions and be embarrassed once again. But now that the hotel has responded, it is time to weigh in.
Jermaine Massey, a black guest at the DoubleTree hotel in Portland, was sitting in the lobby late at night. He was wearing athletic shoes, jeans, and a hoodie and his feet were propped on the couch. He had just returned from a concert and received an unexpected call from his mother. Rather than head upstairs, he sat down in the lobby to take the call. After a few minutes on the phone, a hotel security guard approached him and asked if he was a guest.
Massey became annoyed and asked the guard to leave him alone. The guard again asked if he was a guest at the hotel and Massey said yes. The guard asked what room number and Massey allegedly said he did not remember. Massey attempted to return to his conversation, but the security guard radioed the manager on duty to call 9-11.
The manager approached and asked what was going on. Massey asked why he called the police before finding out what was going on. The manager asked if he was a guest and Massey said yes, pulling out his room key/envelope which had his room number written on it.
The security guard’s reaction on video suggests that Massey had not produced this earlier. Nevertheless, the police request was not cancelled. The cops showed up.
On Instagram, Massey explained what happened next:
They already had in their minds that they didn’t want me there so I waited for the cops to show up and when they did, I explained my side of the story and they didn’t want to hear it. They asked me if I had personal items in my room (which of course I did) and asked me to go retrieve them. They told me that since the hotel requested me to leave, that if I didn’t I would be considered a trespasser and would be thrown in jail. I complied and cooperated and was not issued a refund for my room. I packed my stuff and went to another hotel.
Police offered to drive Massey to another hotel, but he refused and took a Lyft to the nearby Sheraton.
The Hotel’s Response
Paul Peralta, the hotel’s General Manager told a local CBS affiliate:
The safety, security and comfort of our guests and associates is our top priority at the Doubletree by Hilton Portland. This incident that occurred over the holidays between our hotel and guest is unfortunate. We are sorry that this matter ended the way it did and have reached out to the gentleman in order to resolve this matter. We are place of public accommodation and place a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion and our hotel does not discriminate against any individual or group. We look forward to speaking with him.
This marked an elaboration from his initial statement to the Oregonian:
This unfortunate incident is likely the result of a misunderstanding between our hotel and guest. We are sorry that this matter ended the way it did. We are place of public accommodation and do not discriminate against any individuals or groups.
Missing from his statement: will Massey will receive a full refund plus compensation?
I often find myself in hotel lobbies taking phone calls or working late when I do not want to disturb my wife or business partner. In fact, I’ve spent more nights than I care to remember working in hotel lobbies. Not once have I been asked whether I was a guest at the hotel. We must ask ourselves why. Is it because I am white and generally more formally dressed?
Let’s be blunt: it was a casually dressed man in a city that has a serious homeless problem. The hotel has a security guard for a reason. Thus, I don’t fault the hotel for asking Massey if he was a guest.
It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that Massey never actually showed the guard his room key until the duty manager showed up. If you watch the video, you’ll see the security guard’s reaction to the room key: it appeared he had not previously seen it and explained that Massey was deemed a loiterer because he had refused to tell him his room number.
So up until this point, I hold Massey to blame. Yes, it is annoying to be asked to verify your status as a guest. But unlike the other guests wandering through the lobby to their room or sitting the in bar, he was sitting in a private part of the lobby with his feet up on the couch. He may well have faced discrimination on the basis of his skin color or attire, but he certainly was singled out for sitting in a deserted part of the lobby late at night.
But once it was established that Massey was a hotel guest, why was he asked to leave? Why didn’t the manager apologize, explain the hotel has a problem with loiterers, and ask for forgiveness and understanding? Why did the manager still decide to throw out Massey? What harm did he pose? Did he not have a right, as a hotel guest, to sit in the lobby while taking a phone call?
This is a sad story. As best I can, I feel Massey’s pain that he felt guilty until proven innocent. It annoys me too when someone does not take my word for something and wants more proof. But perhaps he could have been a little more understanding of why the hotel had a security guard in the first place. In one of his own videos, he admits why he appeared suspicious. That said, this hotel owes Massey much more than an apology. Once it was established that he was a guest, it seems he was thrown out for spite. That is simply unacceptable.
Massey has enlisted the aide of the Portland law firm Kafoury & McDougal, which has already issued an accusatory press release.
What do you think about this incident?