Alleged CU Discrimination Incident Sparks Social Media Outrage
An alleged discrimination incident caught on video at a Washington credit union last week against a Muslim black woman ignited a social media firestorm from thousands of people demanding that the employee involved be fired.
On May 5, Jamela Mohamed walked into the Kent branch of the $1.4 billion Sound Credit Union to pay a bill. She was wearing a hood because Mohamed said she was observing Jummah, a congregational prayer that Muslims hold every Friday around noontime.
A teller asked her to take off her hood because of the credit union’s policy that requires members to remove their hats, hoods or sunglasses inside the branch for their safety.
Mohamed said she ran outside to retrieve her hijab, a traditional scarf worn by Muslim women to cover the hair and neck and sometimes the face.
However, after she returned to the branch, Mohamed began taking a video with her smartphone, presumably, because she said two men who were wearing hats were served by tellers with no issues. However, the video that Mohamed posted shows one man wearing a baseball cap walking out of the branch, and another man, also wearing a baseball cap, standing in line. However, it is unknown whether the men took off their hats while being served by tellers, or whether they had been asked by tellers to remove their hats.
Although Sound CU declined to comment about Mohamed's specific version of events that occurred in the branch, it has been reviewing the video that was posted on social media, according to a Sound CU prepared statement.
"As a credit union, we believe in equal treatment for all. We are revisiting our procedures and training to do everything we possibly can to prevent a situation like this from happening again,” Sound CU said.
“Our training will continue to emphasize empathy and sensitivity to all cultures. Our management team is actively investigating the incident to gather all the facts and circumstances. Until a full investigation is complete, we cannot comment further about the individuals involved. Updates will be released on this page as they become available."
Mohamed wrote on a Facebook post that included her video of the events that followed, “Then I confronted the teller and he told me ‘it should be no issue, let me get my supervisor for permission.’”
“If you don’t take your hood off, I’m calling 9-1-1,” an unidentified Sound CU supervisor stated with a raised voice, standing a few feet from Mohamed.
“Can I go ahead and get my money back?” Mohamed asked.
The supervisor ignored her question and stated, again, with a raised, voice, “1, 2, and 3.” The supervisor then slapped her hand on the teller counter and walked back to a desk to call police.
“And what’s the reason why you’re calling 9-1-1?” Mohamed asked as the supervisor was walking back to a desk. The supervisor also made other comments that were unintelligible.
With her smartphone recording the incident, Mohamed walked back to where the supervisor was standing behind a desk making a call.
“I wanted to know that supervisor’s name,” Mohamed said.
When Mohamed walked up to the desk, the supervisor, pointing her finger at Mohamed, said. “You have to take your hood off.”
“What’s your name?’ Mohamed asked.
“My name is Suzanne,” the supervisor said.
“OK. Thank You, Suzanne,” Mohamed said.
The next part of the video shows Mohamed in her car crying. She claimed the supervisor “came outside after me.”
“[She] literally followed me outside and I feel so embarrassed right now,” said a weeping Mohamed. “And there she is.”
Mohamed stepped out of her car and shouted out to the supervisor, “Ma’am, am I endangering your safety? Am I endangering your safety?”
The supervisor also said something, but it was unintelligible.
It was unknown whether police were involved or arrived at the scene.
As of last Tuesday, there were more than 6,000 comments posted and the video had nearly 600,000 views. The video also was shared by more than 6,000 Facebook users.
To view Jamela Mohamed’s video, go to her Facebook page.
CU Times will have more on this story, as well as statements from Sound CU and more reaction from the public in our May 17 print issue.