Black-on-Black racism takes a toll on black men

This week black men were victims of explicit black- on-black racism, a contributing cause of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Two recent events stand out. One involves Erika Mack, a black woman assistant TCF branch manager, called the police on Sauntore Thomas, a bank customer. Thomas wanted to cash and deposit settlement checks he received resulting from a discrimination lawsuit.

The second instance involved a black Prince George’s County, Maryland, cop, who shot to death a handcuffed black prisoner seated in the police officer’s patrol car.

Police officer Michael Owens Jr.

Police charged Corporal Michael Owen Jr., a 10-year department veteran, with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, first degree assault and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime in the shooting death of William Howard Green.

William Howard Green, handcuffed and shot to death in a patrol car

Green, 43, a resident of Southeast, Washington, D.C., was shot to death January 27 in Temple Hills, Prince George’s County. Owen and an unnamed officer arrested Green following a traffic accident. They handcuffed Green and placed him in the front seat next Owen, following procedure.

“A short time later, for reasons that are now at the center of the investigation, Green was shot seven times,” police said. Owen’s service weapon was fired repeatedly during the shooting.

“I have concluded that what happened last night was a crime,” Chief Henry P. Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County Police, said during a news conference.

It turns out that Owen already has one notch on his gun for killing another man in the line of duty. He remained on the job after that deadly shooting.

In Livonia, Michigan, Sauntore Thomas attempted to deposit two of three settlement checks at TCF Bank where he had an account. One of the checks was for $59,000. Another was for $27,000 and third one was for $13,000. He wanted to cash the $13,000 check and deposit the others.

He was awarded the money after winning a lawsuit from his former employer Enterprise Leasing Company, which is based in Detroit, according to several newspaper accounts.

Sauntore Thomas

Ericka Mack, the assistant bank branch manager, became suspicious, believing the checks were fraudulent and called the police on Thomas.

Four cops showed up at the bank. Thomas contacted his lawyer, Deborah Gordon, who called the bank to tell Mack the checks were legitimate. Mack did not believe Gordon.

Gordon said she believes her client was questioned because he was a black man.

Thomas closed his account at TCF and opened a new one at a Chase Bank branch. The checks cleared 12 hours later without any problems.

A TCF spokesman apologized to Thomas, saying the police shouldnever have been called. He added racism didn’t figure into Mack’s decision to call the police because she is also black.

He doesn’t get it. Blacks are racist against other blacks. It’s internalized oppression which makes black women immediately suspicious of black men.

I have experienced this myself many times.

One incident that is etched in my memory occurred at the Art Institute of Chicago, where I was a member. I was strolling through the galleries looking at the paintings, photographs and drawings.

A black woman security guard told her white female partner she wanted to know what I was up to?

What am up to? I am looking at art. Is that so far out of your experience that you can’t believe a black man can enjoy art?

She stood threatening close to me with an angry stare. I said nothing. My wife and my son walked up to join me. The guard and her partner then walked away.

I didn’t get angry or cause a scene. I believed the guard expected me to get angry. Instead, I wrote a letter to the president of the Art Institute, explaining what happened. I had previously written about an exhibit at the Art Institute, so he had an inkling of who I was. He wrote me back and apologized.

Thomas said he also remained cool. “I feel very intimidated because I knew that if I would have gotten loud, they [the police] would have had me on the ground for disturbance of the peace. But I didn’t get loud. I didn’t get confrontational. I did nothing,” he said.

Thomas has sued the bank for unspecified damages. He also wants the bank officials to apologize.

He also closed his account at TCF. I didn’t renew my membership at the Art Institute.




  1. Once, one of my seven aunts said to me while visiting her at her home in Washington State in 1971, “If you, [me as a Afro-American] do not know and understand how you contribute to your own internalized racism, you can’t point the sole finger of blame upon others who are racist against you”. Her observation and remarked forevermore embossed upon my consciousness my own responsibility and obligation of knowing and understanding myself, that which part of my DNA and that which so shapes my perceptions, misperceptions my fellow Afro-Americans. I was and am humbled by her profound gift of wisdom. I’ve made every effort since then to go within my own internalized racism for deeper identification, clarification and understanding. In addition, I have made every effort not to poison, through my perceptions and misperceptions my racist thoughts and feelings so embedded in my unconscious DNA. When doing this self examination, I have compassion for that which I drank from and was placed upon my plate to unknowingly partook. The fault and blame I unfortunately accepted and took within as truth, from the larger society’s racist banquet has taken a lifetime to exercise from my own racist DNA.

  2. Malcolm, thanks for your comment.

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