At a time when many are denying that systemic discrimination exists (many who deny its existence likely don’t even know what it is), former NFL defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy has shared with us a New York Times article from December 2019 regarding systemic discrimination he experienced while attempting to secure coveted “private client” status with JP Morgan Chase.
Kennedy recorded conversations with JP Morgan Chase employee Charles Belton, who had replaced a former employee with whom Kennedy had been dealing. Both of the employees are black.
“You’re bigger than the average person, period. And you’re also an African-American,” Belton told Kennedy when explaining the company’s reluctance. “We’re in Arizona. I don’t have to tell you about what the demographics are in Arizona. They don’t see people like you a lot.”
Kennedy, the 12th overall pick in the 2003 draft and a nine-year NFL veteran, had gradually moved $800,000 to the bank. He claims that he had been promised “private client” status, reserved for accounts in excess of $250,000. The Times article includes the audio recordings made by Kennedy.
Belton eventually explained to Kennedy the reason for the lack of “private client” status: Bank employees were afraid of dealing with him.
“They’re not going to say this, but I don’t have the same level of intimidation that they have — you know what I’m saying? — not only being a former athlete but also being two black men,” Belton told Kennedy.
Belton then explained that the supervisor, Frank Venniro, would be concerned about interacting directly with Kennedy.
“You sit in front of him, you’re like three times his size — you feel what I’m saying? — he already probably has his perception of how these interactions could go,” Belton told Kennedy. “We’ve seen people that are not of your stature get irate, and it’s like, ‘Well, if this dude gets upset, like what’s going to happen to me?'”
Kennedy asked Belton whether Venniro is a racist.
“I don’t think any person at that level is dumb enough for it to be that blatant,” Belton said. “I don’t have any reason to believe blatantly that he’s that way. You feel what I’m saying? Now, whether there’s some covert action? To be honest? I always err on the side of thinking that. You know, people that are not us probably have some form of prejudice toward us.”
And that, folks, is systemic discrimination. Stereotypes, attitudes, and preconceptions baked into the way that people of a different race are regarded by the majority, specifically by the management at the JP Morgan Chase location where Kennedy was doing business.
It doesn’t just happen with certain police officers. It happens pretty much everywhere. And Kennedy, despite the money he was able to put in the broader JP Morgan Chase coffers based on the success he had as a player in the NFL, experienced it.