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Use Ryan Coogler’s Recent Run-In With The Police As An Opportunity To Check Your Own Biases

March 21, 2022

The funniest thing happened when details surrounding Ryan Coogler’s encounter with Atlanta Police during a bank transaction reached certain pockets of the internet. Somehow, some folks just couldn’t find the ire that one would expect as a reaction to hearing a wealthy Black man was detained for trying to make a large withdrawal from his bank account.

In case you missed it, a police report filed in Atlanta recently revealed that, two months prior, the Academy Award-winning director had been detained after attempting to withdraw $12K from his Bank of America checking account. In an effort to be discrete, Coogler wrote a note on the back of a withdrawal slip indicating the amount of money he wanted to withdraw and requesting that the money be counted elsewhere.

Because robberies are not uncommon in Atlanta these days.

We’ve since learned that Coogler also handed the teller his ID, and had presented his debit card and entered his pin number, as has become customary with withdrawals. Still, somehow, after the transaction amount triggered a flag on the account, the unnamed teller proceeded to tell her manager that she suspected Coogler was trying to rob the bank. And they proceeded to call the police.

According to Variety, upon arriving on the scene, four Atlanta PD officers detained two of Coogler’s colleagues, who were waiting for him outside in a running vehicle. Two of the policemen then entered the building and handcuffed Coogler. Before he was placed in cuffs, one of the officers can be seen pulling his gun.

In other words, Coogler could have lost his life as he wraps up filming for Black Panther 2 because a Black woman was “shook up” by the manner in which he requested access to his own money.

Here is Coogler explaining the incident to the police after the fact:

To the police officers’ defense, once they are dispatched to an active bank robbery, they do have to follow certain procedures. But, as the 911 dispatcher indicated, the issue here is that the police simply should have never been called.

The collective outrage that Black Twitter was prepared to unleash when the story first broke was replaced by statements like this once the teller’s ethnicity was revealed:

The moral of the story is actually that, while we call on non-Black people and would-be allies to check their privilege when it comes to racism and anti-Blackness, many of us still have a lot of work to do when it comes to recognizing our own biases. Because the urge to defend the Black woman who decided to call the police on a Black man in this scenario comes from the same place as the decision that led the teller to make that call when checking his ID and redirecting him to a banker’s office was also an option. Because she admitted out of her own mouth that she had no actual reason to believe her life was in danger.

This incident also underlines the many ways in which the lives of people with disabilities are often endangered. Because the type of ableism which prevents a teller from recognizing that there why a customer might need to write a request down rather than express it verbally – including a speech impediment, which Coogler has – is not far from the type of ableism that gets a quadriplegic man dragged out of his car by a police officer.