The White Wall: New York Times Reporter Releases Book On ‘Banking While Black’

The White Wall: New York Times Reporter Releases Book On ‘Banking While Black’


A police officer detains Ryan Coogler at a Bank of America branch in Atlanta, January 2022. (Atlanta Police Department via AP)

Most in the Black community have probably heard of “banking while Black,” the phenomenon of being racially profiled at banks because of skin color. But a new book by New York Times finance reporter Emily Flitter, “The White Wall: How Big Finance Bankrupts Black America,” will enlighten the rest of the country about the discriminatory practice and how this treatment of Blacks by financial institutions contributes to the widening wealth gap.

Flitter covers banking and Wall Street for The New York Times. Before joining The Times in 2017, she spent eight years at Reuters, writing about politics, financial crimes, and the environment.

“So many folks have #BankingWhileBlack stories–about their treatment as customers, but also as Wall Street employees, policyholders, & financial advisors. I hope my book makes you feel heard and inspires you to share your own, here or in your communities,” she tweeted about her book.

She’s covered the issue of banking while Black before for The Times.

Although Black customers risk being racially profiled on daily visits to banks, under federal laws, there is little recourse as long as the banks ultimately complete the transactions, she wrote in a June 18, 2020, Times article.

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For the article, Flitter interviewed Atlanta resident Clarice Middleton who claims she was racially profiled while trying to do business at a local Wells Fargo bank branch one December morning in 2018. She had tried to cash a $200 check but was accused of fraud by three branch employees, who called 911 on her. Middleton said she had the proper ID to cash the check but was treated, she claimed, like a criminal. When police arrived, they did not take action; the bank then offered to cash the check for her. Middleton went on to sue Wells Fargo for racial discrimination.

The incident shook Middleton, who told Flitter she thought at the time of the police arriving: “I don’t want to die.”

Middleton is just one of many Black people who have experienced this treatment at banks.

In her book, Flitter also addresses the racial profiling of “Black Panther” film director Ryan Coogler underwent earlier this year. Coogler was detained at a Bank of America branch when trying withdraw money from his own account after bank employees took him for a bank robber and called police.

“Lesson one: If you’re Black you’re likely to have a harder time doing basic banking business no matter where you go. Cops have been called on Black customers at @chase, @Citi, @WellsFargo, @usbank & at smaller banks as well. Size doesn’t matter,” Flitter tweeted.

In 2018, Flitter received a tip that Morgan Stanley had fired a Black employee without cause. This information took Flitter on a three-year investigative journey about how financial institutions not only treat Black customers but also Black employees. The result was “The White Wall.”

In the book, she examined racial profiling at local insurance agencies and corporate giants such as JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, and Wells Fargo and in the process she exposes “hiring and layoff policies designed to keep Black employees from advancing to high levels; racial profiling of customers in internal emails between bank tellers; major insurers refusing to pay Black policyholders’ claims; and the systematic denial of funding to Black entrepreneurs,” as the book description stated. For “The White Wall,” in addition to presenting data, she also interviewed victims.

“One of the most shocking stories in my book is Jimmy Kennedy’s. He earned $13 million in the @NFL yet couldn’t get @Chase to give him ‘Private Client’ status, & was told by a Chase employee that it was because people in his local branch were scared of him,” she tweeted.

In response to Flitter’s tweets, Freeznutz tweeted, “Read this #thread and the book and realize #ReparationsNow is not just about slavery.”

A police officer detains “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler at a Bank of America branch in Atlanta, January 2022. Coogler was mistaken for a bank robber. (Atlanta Police Department via AP)