Harassment at Opryland

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Homecoming for TSU was awesome with the exception of what others and I experienced as undue harassment and racial profiling while attending a reception held at the Opryland Hotel. It was a reminder of what I encountered the last time Opryland acted as the host hotel for TSU’s homecoming.

I (like others attending) found it hard to understand why the suite in which many alumni were frequenting was targeted, except for the fact that we were African Americans. The suite was a welcoming venue for those celebrating various years of reunions. Those in attendance were professional, well dressed, and complying with what they felt were acceptable levels in conversing. There was no music playing and no loud and boisterous confrontations taking place.

I would say the room was filled at 70% capacity at the most. However, hotel security literally camped outside the door regardless of those within doing everything possible to comply with their complaints that it was too noisy in the room or that there may be too many people in the suite.

The complaints were unwarranted and untrue leaving most of those in the suite feeling this was a joke or we were being ‘punked,’ as in the reality show. But nonetheless, those representing security found those in the suite to be in violation—regardless of everyone inside literally whispering and doing everything possible to comply with their allegations.

Eventually we were told that everyone was to leave, unless you were registered to the suite. There were several lawyers in the room who spoke to try to understand the urgency to shut down the suite. Eventually, a compromise was made and the party was moved to another part of the hotel. The feeling among those attending was that we were not going to let this unpleasant episode spoil our homecoming and we would deal with this situation after homecoming.

If there are stringent rules about having a suite open to guests, shouldn’t that be known to the person or party registering for the suite? Those in attendance were bewildered because they claimed they had frequent celebratory events in hotels throughout the country and had never experienced this type of harassment.

The only plausible answer that made any sense is that maybe some White guests on the floor may have complained seeing so many African Americans going into a room—because noise was not a factor.

I find it hard to believe this type of treatment is experienced by the many White organizations using the hotel for conventions, reunions, or homecomings. In fact, from talking too some employees working at Opryland who wanted to remain anonymous, beefing up security and being extra hard on people of color, especially African American groups, is a commonplace practice at the hotel.

I can’t speak for other African American groups, but this is the second time I have personally experienced what I consider discriminatory practices by the hotel toward an African group during a TSU homecoming. In fact, I wrote about it when I first experienced it. Unfortunately little if any changes seem to have occurred. The lack of sensitivity and understanding by the hotel toward a professional and law-abiding group of African Americans spending money at the hotel is apparently a point of contention shared by many.

This treatment is unacceptable and must be addressed and changed. Until concrete and non-discriminatory changes are made, many vowed not to recommend anyone of color utilizing the hotel if they could help it.

The consensus was that we are playing for a service and our money is as good as anyone else’s—guaranteeing us fair and honorable treatment.

Being a native of Nashville, I would like to personally apologize to those attending any function during TSU’s homecoming at the hotel where they may have felt harassment or discriminatory treatment by the staff or hotel. I love this city and think highly of the many venues that openly welcome visitors and tourists, but I cannot defend what many experienced as blatant harassment at Opryland Hotel during TSU’s homecoming.

I suggest the mayor as well as TSU’s Homecoming Committee, and Nashville’s Chamber of Commerce look into charges made by many in attendance at TSU’s homecoming of discriminatory practices at the Opryland Hotel.