A recent report by KSTP News helped to shed light on an egregious, racially-motivated attack against a Black male customer at U.S. Bank, which took place last year—in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Joe Morrow, a young Black, working-class man, went to U.S. Bank in Columbia Heights intending to cash a $900 check from his employer.
Instead of being treated like a human being, Mr. Morrow was racially profiled by branch manager John Askwith and accused of attempting to cash a fraudulent check. The bank manager pretended that he had verified that Mr. Morrow’s check was fake, stereotyped Mr. Morrow and all Black people of always trying to cash fake checks, and called the police on Mr. Morrow, which further escalated the situation.
All of this took place in front of bank customers which caused Mr. Morrow to experience embarrassment and humiliation and further reinforced racial stereotypes of Black men as criminals and untrustworthy.
When Columbia Heights police came on the scene, they contributed to the harm and humiliation that Mr. Morrow experienced by showing deference to the bank manager and ultimately placing Mr. Morrow in handcuffs as if he had committed a crime.
“Just last year, the world was forced to watch the public lynching of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, based upon an allegation that he tried to pass a fake $20 bill in a local business establishment.
“It is unfathomable that U.S. Bank would fail to learn the lesson that calling the police on a Black man for a petty offense could lead to criminalization, or worse, a death sentence,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights attorney and founder of the Racial Justice Network.
“U.S. Bank prides itself on valuing diversity, equity, and inclusion, yet it failed to uphold those values in its interactions with a Black customer who was simply trying to gain access to his hard-earned money. U.S. Bank must take swift accountability for its actions and publicly address this matter,” said Sonja Western, teacher, and member of the Racial Justice Network.
We are calling upon U.S. Bank to take the following steps:
- Publicly accept responsibility for their discrimination against Joe Morrow, apologize, and take steps to make him whole;
- Launch a third-party investigation into the actions of the bank manager who initiated this racially motivated encounter and discipline and/or fire him for his actions and racist comments;
- Require white U.S. bank executives, managers, and employees to participate in anti-racism training; and adjust policies to eliminate and reduce the potential for racial discrimination and bias throughout the company;
- Develop a reparations initiative to increase homeownership of Black customers through more equitable lending practices; and
- Refrain from calling the police on Black customers in unwarranted situations and develop alternative approaches to addressing petty offenses.
It is our expectation that U.S. Bank will take these matters seriously and will take steps to redress this gross miscarriage of justice.
The Racial Justice Network (RJN) is a multi-racial, grassroots organization, committed to fighting for racial justice and building bridges across racial, social, and economic lines.