Black artist sues Manhattan hotel staff for calling him homeless in ‘traumatic’ case of racial profiling

A New York artist has filed a complaint alleging he faced racial profiling and verbal abuse while staying at a hotel in the city in January this year.

In his complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights filed on Monday, artist Kahlil Robert Irving said he was staying at New York’s High Line Hotel on 22 January when a manager and another member of the staff barged into his room and started abusing him, reported Hyperallergic, a publication that focuses on art and culture.

“To state the obvious: As a twenty-nine year old Black man, it was highly traumatic to be confronted by two older white men who barged into my hotel room unannounced while I was sleeping, screaming at me and saying that I needed to leave immediately and that the police were being called,” Mr Irving wrote in his complaint.

“Can one seriously believe that this incident would have taken place and would have unfolded in such an aggressive and malicious manner, for any other reason, and absent hostile, racial stereotyping?”

According to Mr Irving, the hotel manager had entered his room at around 7.30-8am when he was still sleeping.

The door had not been entirely shut and the manager asked Mr Irving if he was fine. He then left the room after Mr Irving said he was.

The complaint stated that around half an hour later, as Mr Irving fell back asleep, the manager and another member of the staff re-entered without knocking or providing any other warning.

Mr Irving said the manager hovered over his bed while “screaming” and using “abusive language” while his colleague stood by the entrance to the room blocking it.

The manager told him he was “not supposed to be here” and that he had to leave, further identifying him as an unhoused person who invaded the room.

It was only after Mr Irving was able to show them evidence of his reservation on his phone did the manager and his colleague retreat.

“The filing is being done now because we had been attempting to initiate an informal dialogue with the hotel and its parent, to discuss these issues, however they have been unwilling to engage in such a dialogue,” said Laurence Eisenstein, Mr Irving’s attorney.

“We reached the stage where we did not feel they would address the issues and concerns without our initiating some sort of legal proceeding.”

The hotel has not issued a statement and, according to Mr Irving, neither the hotel nor its parent company MCR Hotels has acknowledged that the attack was racially motivated.

They have instead called it a “misunderstanding”.

“They never said this was a breach of protocol or this was unacceptable,” Mr Irving was quoted as saying to the outlet. “It is and was completely out of line.”

“Now I have to live with the haunting of someone coming into my room in any hotel I may stay in,” he added.

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