Sunday, October 24, 2021

A tour guide’s firing after posting a racist comment on Instagram has sparked a social media storm

An employee of the Williamsburg Tour Company, which organises tours in the trendy neighbourhood, found herself terminated after she posted on Facebook complaining about three Black tour guides who she said were racially profiling and condescending to their customers.

Nicole Barrett posted the message along with a video of her exchange with the tour guide. (On the tour video she appears to be seen wearing glasses that resemble those of a professional driver.)

She apologised for the offense and said she worked in the tour industry long enough to have “expertise that is unparalleled”.

She added that she wished to apologise to the other tour guides for what they had done. “Sometimes you can get caught up in the moment and miss the purpose of your conversations with customers,” she wrote.

In response, the tour guide, Kevin Trohan, posted a video of himself at the bus stop reading the Instagram post aloud. He responded with incredulity to her allegations. “I was just fired because of this,” he said.

NYC-based tour guide, Kevin Trohan. He was removed from a scheduled tour of Brooklyn because his Instagram comment appeared to be too offensive.

When she criticized the way other tour guides might treat a customer in the same way, the tour guide said, “You know how I would speak to you? I would walk on eggshells around you.”

“You know how you would speak to me?” the tour guide said. “I would walk on eggshells around you.”

In response, the tour guide said, “You know how I would speak to you? I would walk on eggshells around you.”

Trohan responded by firing back: “That’s not my assumption, sir. Don’t be acting like that.” He said his manager had told him he should be speaking up for the black tour guides when they were mistreated. Trohan apologised to the other tour guides but said he would defend his opinion about his social media post.

Catherine Zachary, a spokeswoman for Williamsburg Tours, said in an email to New York Daily News, “The Williamsburg Tour Company has a history of consistently welcoming all people and diverse groups. The company has never discriminated based on race or religion, but today Nicole Barrett brought this to our attention.”

Neither Trohan nor Barrett could be reached for comment.

On Thursday, Trohan told the Brooklyn Paper that he didn’t remember saying anything offensive to Barrett on the tour. And he’s defended his Instagram post online.

In an earlier post, Trohan wrote that he was defending his black tour guides. He said he received calls from “people who basically implied that I was motivated by race in regards to the way I say things”.

In a response on Facebook, Trohan wrote: “Guys, I didn’t use racial slurs on the bus. I never even said the word ‘n*****’. It was a friendly conversation on the bus that continued for a good 15 minutes, and I showed some friends on social media that said I went too far by posting my comments on Instagram.”

He also wrote: “It’s sad that someone like Nicole Barrett cares so much about this I couldn’t let her delete her [Instagram] without the weight of her objection and attention.”

Posters to Trohan’s Facebook page appeared to rebuke his comment. “This dude is a monster!!!” posted Savannah Mills.

Ladi Robinson, who identified herself as the owner of Williamsburg Tours, also commented on Trohan’s post. She wrote: “Kevin was fired on behalf of the company because we believe what he said on his Instagram and feels offended for him, for all of our team members, for our wonderful tour guides and for everyone else.”

Some commenters on the tour company’s Facebook page saw what Trohan had written as a way to legitimise controversial commentary. “As a tour guide I feel like this would be acceptable behavior if you had a strong stance against it,” wrote Eric Chagouri.

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