He thought it was all over. Finally, after all the outrage he had to endure and a long and exhausting lawsuit, he had his settlement check in his hands. Now, he was ready to cash it at the bank.
He started talking to the assistant manager and handed her the check. She looked at it. Then, she hit him with a suspicious stare. She walked towards her office and disappeared for a few minutes. Just a moment later, six police officers entered the bank branch and surrounded him.
He thought when he walked through that door, the bank staff would see him as a regular man with a settlement check to cash. However, the assistant manager would see something very different.
But the scene that has been causing an uproar in the media and provoked millions of reactions and comments was only the culmination of a year-long ordeal that Dejuan had been going through. And right when he thought his troubles were over, he realized they had just begun. This is how it all started:
After years of service as a tactical aircraft maintenance specialist in the Air Force, Dejuan decided it was time for him to leave the corps and get a civilian job again.
A part of it was that he was burnt out and tired after all those years in the military. However, that wasn’t all: there was a further, more intimate reason behind his decision.
Dejuan had recently become a father. His little girl, Alexia, was already 3 years old. Dejuan’s wife, Keisha, never had a problem with Dejuan’s job in the Air Force: she knew he was doing what was best for his country and his family.
However, Dejuan was starting to get tired of the long hours, of having to be away from home for months at a time, and most importantly: being exposed to the risk of losing his life if he ever was deployed to a foreign country in conflict. He wanted to see Alexia grow up and be there for her as a father. So one day, he took a life-changing decision.
He retired from the Air Force and started looking for another job in his home city, Detroit, where his family lived.
The job search was shorter than he expected. After all, his experience in the Air Force was a guarantee of discipline and outstanding competence. Quickly, he found a position in the Detroit airport. However, he would soon discover that all that glitters is not gold.
The recruiting process was conducted entirely over the phone. It took Dejuan only two phone calls with the HR department to get hired; they were impressed with his experience and offered him the position immediately.
The salary was better than Dejuan could have expected, and the conditions seemed nice and dandy. However, things started taking a turn when he first stepped into the airport and met his manager in person.
When Dejuan first arrived at the airport for his first day of work, his manager was waiting there for him. He stared at Dejuan from head to toe. After a few seconds of silence, he asked, “are you Mr. Thomas?”
Dejuan responded that, indeed, he was. This was followed by another instant of silence. Then, the manager sighed and then said, “alright, follow me.” He showed him around and introduced him to the rest of the staff. For the whole time, Dejuan wondered what the manager’s reaction could mean. But that was only the beginning.
The following months were an absolute ordeal for the Air Force veteran. Even though he enjoyed his job, he was good at it, and he got along with his colleagues and subordinates, something became increasingly clear: his manager didn’t like him.
He would always have something to say, no matter how good Dejuan did his job. He acted like Dejuan owed him something, and the veteran couldn’t put his finger on why. Until one day, he finally saw what was going on.
Clearly, Dejuan’s manager’s problem had a name: racism. One day, the army vet was walking down one of the airport hallways when he suddenly passed through his manager’s door.
Right then, he overheard him having a conversation on the phone. When he listened closely to what the manager was saying, Dejuan could feel his blood boiling in his veins.
He was talking about Dejuan to someone else and repeatedly using a slur to refer to him! Instantly, Dejuan took out his phone and recorded everything. Now that was enough. He knew what he had to do.
He filed a discrimination lawsuit against the airport. That was the start of a lengthy, exhausting legal process until, almost a year later, he finally received his settlement check. But his problems were far from over.
That day, Dejuan headed to his local branch with the check in his pocket. He waited in line for a few minutes, and when it was finally his turn, he handed the check to the assistant manager.
She looked at him from head to toe and said, “I have to speak to my superiors about this.” Then, she disappeared behind a door. Minutes later, six police officers entered the branch and surrounded Dejuan.
“Take your hands out of your pockets,” was the first thing one of them said. Then, they asked him to follow them to a backroom, which Dejuan refused to do. Still, he tried his best to keep his cool.
“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.'” But the officers adopted an antagonistic stance.
“Where does this money come from?” one of the officers asked. Dejuan explained it to them, but they didn’t believe him. They took him to one of the two cars and arrested him as a suspect for fraud.
Immediately after arriving at the station, Dejuan called his lawyer, who managed to convince the officers to let him go. But that wasn’t the end of it.
Even though Dejuan managed to cash his check at a different bank right after he was released from the station, his branch had already filed a police report against him, alleging check fraud.
“It was embarrassing,” Thomas told the media. “If I was white, this wouldn’t be happening.” But he knew what to do. He was ready to get some payback.
A few days later, advised by his lawyer, Dejuan filed another discrimination lawsuit against the bank. “They kept telling him there was an issue of fraud, and that’s what caused them to call the police. So then I have to ask, ‘What is the reason you think there’s fraud?'” Dejuan’s lawyer told the media.
“There’s no explanation for that other than the fact that my client is African American. They never offered an explanation as to why the police were called or as to why they thought the checks were fraudulent. They made an assumption that a black guy that’s in here with these checks; it’s got to be fraud, so let’s just call the cops.” In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead are entirely coincidental.