When newlyweds Laura and Ebong Eka set out for their trip aboard the MSC Seaview in Barcelona, they were probably expecting the trip of a lifetime.
Ebong, a certified public accountant, and Laura, who directs marketing for a financial research firm, were likely invested in spending quality time with one another. Instead, while walking through one of the Seaview’s corridors, the Ekas were greeted by a Belle Époque portrait featuring two white men laughing with a white woman, one of them visibly lusting after the ivory-skinned lady while clad in classic blackface.
Laura, who is white, told the Miami New Times painting made her feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. “You had to walk by it every day,” she said, “and remind yourself that you’re not welcome here.”
Ebong, who is black, was mad when he laid eyes upon it. Then he thought about how it got there.
“This decision wasn’t made in a vacuum; there were multiple levels of approval, multiple people who said, ‘Yeah, these pictures should go here,’” Ebong says.
Laura, miles from land in the midst of her scheduled cruise, tried to handle the matter internally. She says the company didn’t respond. She may not have been the only one complaining, as both she and Ebong recall a large group of black veterinarians aboard who were also offended. “They had their friends and family with them; it was a big group,” Laura says. “We were all talking about it. They were pretty upset too.”
Since Laura took to Twitter to show the world the object of her ire, Italian-founded, Swiss-registered, Geneva-headquartered MSC has since removed the painting while extending “our sincerest apologies if this offended anyone,” adding “racism or discrimination have no place in society or on board our ships.”
They’ve yet to respond to Laura. They should get on that.