In the week that the nation commemorated MLK, it’s sadly true that the great man’s message of post-racial inclusion hasn’t yet touched all America’s inhabitants.
Nonetheless, whether or not such issues were the real reason behind the rough experience one man suffered on Tuesday at a Detroit bank remains hotly contested by both parties.
Sauntore Thomas, a 44-year-old black man from Detroit, had just won a settlement from a racial discrimination suit against his employer. He then attempted to deposit the settlement check for an undisclosed amount of money at TCF Bank when the staff refused his check and called the cops instead, according to the local Detroit Free Press.
Thomas is now suing the Livonia branch of TCF Bank, which dished out the harsh treatment to him, for refusing to accept the settlement check. He claims that bank employees acted the way they did because of his race.
“I’m a United States veteran,” Thomas said. “I have an honorable discharge from the Air Force. They discriminated against me because I’m black. None of this would have happened if I were white.”
The money came from a confidential settlement reached after Thomas sued his employer, Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit, for racial discrimination. Thomas said he explained that to the bank but that the clerk still looked at him suspiciously and called law enforcement.
TCF Bank quickly initiated a fraud investigation and asked two police officers to question him inside the bank while two other cops stood guard.
In the meantime, Thomas called his attorney, Deborah Gordon, to explain to the bank that the check was legitimate and actually part of a settlement. Gordon sent the bank a copy of the federal court complaint. The officers received the lawsuit but wanted to further check with Thomas’s employer to ensure the check was real.
“My client was very intimidated and upset. He kept his composure, though,” Gordon said in a statement. “He was afraid that with the police there the situation could quickly escalate and he would end up in handcuffs or worse. The irony is that the proceeds were from the settlement of a race discrimination case.”
TCF Bank spokesman Tom Wennerberg has said that the institution condemns racism and it was not a factor in how the bank handled Thomas’s requests, stating its computer system read the check as fraudulent because of a scanning problem. Thomas, however, said he opened an account with a Chase bank in Detroit later that day and his money was made available 12 hours later.