Someone’s civil rights are violated every minute of every day. Some choose to brush it off their shoulders and contribute the violation to ignorance, while others choose to stand up for themselves, even if that means standing alone. For Bernard Partee, standing up against Prosperity Bank is a must because he feels his civil rights and the civil rights of African Americans everywhere were violated.
On May 10 around 3:15 p.m. Partee decided to stop at Prosperity Bank, located at the corner of Turtle Creek and Oaklawn in Dallas, to cash two Prosperity Bank issued checks. When he walked up to the door, it was locked. So he began walking around the bank looking for another entrance, but did not find one. Then he walked to the drive through window, which is single lane and has a sharp curve that limits driver visibility. The teller, an African American woman, proceeded to assist Partee. During the transaction Partee questioned why the bank was closed and what he heard not only floored him, but sent a shock through his body.
“I asked the young lady in the drive through window, ‘Ma’am is there any reason I can’t come in to conduct these transactions? You all have me standing outside in this drive through and I am legally blind and someone could be in those bushes waiting to rob me,’” recalled Partee. “I was shocked when she responded that the sunglasses I have on all the time because I am legally blind and my briefcase, which she called a shoulder bag, made them think that I was coming in to rob them.”
Partee said that it took him a few moments to collect his thoughts and he immediately began asking what the qualifying reasons were for him to have been identified as a potential bank robber. The young lady proceeded to defend their decision to force Partee to conduct business through the drive through window without a car. When he asked to speak to the branch manager, he was told she was out to lunch. When he asked for the number to the corporate office, he was told Prosperity Bank does not have a corporate office (Prosperity Bank was named the No. 1 bank by Forbes with 176 branches in Texas). Partee said he was never invited into the bank’s lobby after the teller determined he was conducting official bank business, did not receive an apology and was charged a $20 banking fee because he is not an account holder with Prosperity Bank.
“I was made to stand outside in the heat without a car, because they determined that I was going to rob their branch,” said Partee. “This is the only bank that I know of where the bank employees have the right to determine who is a criminal or not; yet they refuse to hire security or even an off duty police. They (Prosperity Bank) don’t have locked doors at the branch at Kiest and 67. I was racially profiled and discriminated against.”
After Partee called another bank to lodge his complaint about his treatment, he received a call directly from the DFW and East Texas Areas President, Delos A. Hayes. The first words out of his mouth according to Partee was, “‘We screwed up badly, you never should have been treated that way.’” The two discussed the events and Hayes was apologetic about the exchange and refusal to let him in the bank.
However, when WFAA Channel 8 News interviewed Hayes a few days later, he recant his apology to Partee and stated bank policy. Twenty-one days after the initial conversation, Partee received a letter from Hayes and he was dismayed.
“The letter that I received said that what happened to me was their bank’s policy,” Partee shared. “It said that that particular bank had been robbed several times and that the staff has the discretion to pick who they feel comfortable with in the bank. In the letter he admitted that I fit the profile of people robbing their bank.”
Unfortunately, the involvement of community leaders is lacking if not nonexistent. Since the incident Partee has not received support from the community or community leaders, yet he has notified everyone including Commissioner John Wiley Price, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Dwaine Caraway and other African-American elected officials of the incident. His only supporters for protesting the bank include Michael Valdez, a Hispanic member of the community and Anthony Bond, an African-American member of the community.
“If I am the only one standing out there holding that sign in front of that bank for however long I decide to stand out there and draw whatever attention I am going to draw then that’s fine,” he added.
To date, Partee is still seeking legal representation. He knows he is in for a fight to prove his rights were violated, including his rights as a legal blind individual. However, Partee feels his safety was placed in jeopardy. He also said the teller and bank president admitted he was racially profiled. Partee is protesting to push for change and justice.
“I want Prosperity Bank to change their policy, put security in the bank and system completely. They should not have locked doors unless the bank is closed,” he said. “The employees need to have sensitivity training as well.”
He also cautions African Americans to be aware that because they are treated good at the Prosperity Banks in the African-American community does not mean they are going to be treated fairly in other communities. Partee suggests the community get involved on this issue and stop racial profiling and discrimination.
Wednesday afternoon, Hayes from Prosperity Bank told NDG, “We sent Mr. Partee an official apology from our bank. We do not understand how his rights as far as ADA compliance was violated because our branch is compliant with ADA. While we did conduct the transaction through the drive-thru window, the tellers were fearful of Mr. Partee and refused to allow him in the bank because he was yelling and screaming. While he requested compensation for his troubles we did not feel the need to compensate him at this time. He is a non-customer and was only cashing a few checks that our customer issued him. We processed his transactions and apologized.”