Bob Johnson is the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and the official first black American billionaire. He’s a prime example of what some in this country call “proof” that racism isn’t a real issue anymore. But as WPBF reports, on August 24 of this year, Mr. Johnson could have had all of the money in the world, he was just some black guy with expensive prescription sunglasses to the check in attendant at Eau Palm Beach, a “5-star luxury hotel.” After giving his car to the valet, his bags to hotel staff he was asked for identification on his two night reservation. According to Johnson he gave them three forms: American Express, Florida driver license, and his government issued passport. But, that wasn’t enough for the hotel betty who said he needed to take off his sunglasses. She told Johnson she couldn’t and wouldn’t check him in without doing so.
Johnson says that when traveling internationally it is customary to have to take ones sunglasses off; but not domestically, and not when the identification you are providing are both federal and in state. He told the lady that she should call the police. According to WPBF, police came but were unable to broker a “compromise,” and Johnson left.
Eau Palm Beach spokesman Nick Gold said the policy is for the protection of guests.
“It is standard operating procedure in the industry to ask to make sure that the person who is presenting themselves to check-in and they present identification that it does match and if they’re wearing dark glasses with a ball cap low over their face, you want to make sure that it is the same person, much like what would happen at TSA rules going through the airport,” Gold said.
Personally, I don’t care much for billionaires like Bob Johnson. But I do care about racism. Bob Johnson owns a hotel investment company—RLJ Lodging Trust. In fact, it’s the country’s largest hotel investment company, after merging. Spokesman Gold said he hoped Johnson would come back to visit. I suspect, if Johnson does come back to that hotel it will be with the deed in hand.