“‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler was briefly detained by police in Atlanta in January after he was mistaken for a bank robber at a Bank of America, according to a police report filed Wednesday.” — Variety, 3/9/22
Given the misunderstanding between a Bank of America teller and director Ryan Coogler that led to Coogler being handcuffed by police for attempting to withdraw money from his own bank account, it’s important to remind Black men how they should and shouldn’t behave as Black men in America.
Too often, Black men are under the impression that they ought to be able to do simple things like go to the bank, get into their own home, or hang out on their own couch in their own apartment, without having to worry about being racially profiled and then later being blamed for all of the things they should’ve done differently while they were being racially profiled.
That said, here are some do’s and don’ts for how Black men can safely navigate a simple trip to the bank.
DON’T: Hand the Teller a Note
Ryan Coogler’s mistake was handing the teller a standard bank withdrawal slip explaining that he wanted to withdraw cash from his own account, and asking that the money be counted discreetly. What he should have done was yell, “MY NAME IS ACADEMY-AWARD NOMINEE RYAN COOGLER, A WEALTHY BLACK MAN, AND I AM ASKING THAT YOU WITHDRAW $12,000 IN CASH FROM MY CHECKING ACCOUNT, THEN MAKE IT RAIN $100 BILLS WHILE BLASTING THE HIP-HOP AIR HORN SOUND!”
DON’T: Wear a Mask
The pandemic ended in May 2020, so any mask worn after that does more harm than good.
DON’T: Wear Sunglasses
Who do you think you are? Anna Wintour?
DON’T: Wear Anything That Makes You Look Like a Criminal, Like Clothes
It’s a well-known fact that clothing like beanies and hoodies identifies you as a criminal. Criminals all wear specific attire to let people know they’re criminals and to make it easy to pick them out in a crowd, which is why every criminal throughout history has dressed exactly like this:
DO: Be Successful
You can’t expect misunderstandings like this not to happen when you’re just an average Black man. Sure, it’s great to be a “promising,” “up-and-coming” director who has directed three critically acclaimed feature films, including the only Marvel movie ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and the thirteenth highest-grossing movie of all time. But can you really expect to be labeled an accomplished director until you’ve cracked the top five?
DON’T: Be Too Successful
One ought not be too successful, though. Whether it’s Black Wall Street or the Obama years, where there’s Black success, there’s always an opposite and massively disproportionate Black-lash by white people.
DON’T: Bring a Group of Friends with You
Coogler brought two friends with him who were waiting in the car outside the bank, and who were also briefly detained by police. Not assuming that white people would assume that three Black men in an SUV were automatically suspicious is really on the three Black men at the end of the day.
DO: Bring One White Friend
Every Black entourage needs one white person. White friends are the human passports that legitimize Black existence and allow Black people to travel through the world of whiteness unencumbered. It’s why they invited Eminem to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show. Who else on that stage could’ve gotten away with kneeling in solidarity with Black Lives Matter without causing a months-long national scandal?
DON’T: Have Money
Ryan Coogler drew suspicion for asking to withdraw $12,000 from his bank account, which is a suspicious amount of money for any Black man to have.
DON’T: Not Have Money
Just as suspicious as having money is not having money. George Floyd was murdered after trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill to pay for groceries. Had he used a real $20 bill, it’s very likely Derek Chauvin would have ruthlessly murdered someone else instead.
DO: The Macarena
A surefire way to remove any doubt that you’re committing a heist is to do the Macarena. You can’t do the Macarena and rob a bank. Way too much hand stuff is required. Countless misunderstandings could be prevented if Black men would just do the Macarena everywhere they went at all times.
DON’T: Do the Cha-Cha Slide
You should never do a dance that involves sudden movements and having your hands where someone might not be able to see them.
DON’T: Be Yourself
Be you? A Black man in America? Are you nuts?
DO: Be Shaquille O’Neal
If you absolutely must be a Black man in America, it helps to be four-time NBA champion and Kazaam star Shaquille O’Neal. At 7’ 1", Shaq is relatively easy to recognize. And even if he did genuinely want to rob a bank, given his size, most bank tellers would probably just let it slide rather than risk confronting him.
Hope these tips help. And remember: the safest way to go to the bank as a Black man is to never go to the bank in the first place. But don’t stay at home minding your own business either, that’s just asking for trouble.