Racism is so 1920’s, or so we wish.

No matter how many steps we take as a society towards equality and a better world, one can’t help but feel like we haven’t really gotten anywhere.

In this poor man’s case, it is almost a racism-ception (discriminception?) as well. How often do you win a fight against racism just to have to smacked in your face again? It must be like waking up from a nightmare, thinking you are fine but soon after you find out that the nightmare is actually real.

It all started when Sauntore Thomas was let go from his former job. Thomas felt his former employer at Enterprise Rent-A-Car was being racially motivated, and sued him. The case was settled with Thomas taking a reported $99 000 in checks to his local TCF bank branch.

Just when he thought he was out they pull him back in

Thomas wanted to open a savings account to deposit his checks into. A wise and safe choice, compared to blowing the money throwing a victory party. However, things did not go according to plan when Thomas asked the teller to process his checks.

After claiming the verification systems for the checks was not functioning the teller said the alternative would be to call in the checks to manually verify them. After disappearing into the back of the bank, the teller returned to inform Thomas that the agent who verifies checks was away from her desk and that he would have to wait for her to return.

While patiently waiting for the bank agent who could assist him, four police officers arrived on the scene and started questioning Thomas. TCF Bank also filed a fraudulent check report to the police on the spot.

Shocked by the attitude of the staff and how things turned out, Thomas closed all his accounts with the bank and went down the street to a nearby Chase bank where he was able to open a savings account and deposit his settlement checks without any problems.

Thomas and his lawyer were quite furious about what went down in the TCF branch and his lawyer, who is white,  released the following statement: “If I had walked into that bank, they’d have been happy to see me, but an assumption was made about him right away. That’s part and parcel of being an African American male in this country.” 

There were no arrests or any criminal charges but the situation was unpleasant nevertheless.

After the story got out, TCF Bank quickly released a statement through CNN saying:

“We apologize for the experience Mr. Thomas had at our banking center. Local police should not have been involved. We strongly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind. We take extra precautions involving large deposits and requests for cash and in this case, we were unable to validate the checks presented by Mr. Thomas and regret we could not meet his needs.”

All is well that ends well, I guess, but the entire situation is still a stark reminder to the underlying and often times discrete racism that plagues our society. Fortunately, Thomas was left unscathed thanks to his calm demeanor and presence of mind.

Thomas told reporters, “I  didn’t give them any type of indication that I was getting upset. I wanted to make sure I stayed as levelheaded as possible because I wasn’t going to be the next person on the ground saying, ‘I can’t breathe.'”