White cop discovers African ancestry, sues city over racism
A white police officer in Michigan took a genetic test through Ancestry.com in December and was surprised to learn that 18 percent of his ancestral DNA traced back to Africa. However, his colleagues in the police department and even at the city level didn’t seem to take the news of his ancestry well.
According to a suit filed on behalf of Cleon Brown, officers in the Hastings Police Department whispered “Black Lives Matter” as they passed him, and the chief referred to him as “Kunte,” after the character in Alex Haley’s novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”
“There was an instance where my client was talking to the mayor, and the mayor ― upon learning that my client was 18 percent African-American ― proceeded to tell him a racist joke” using a racial slur, Brown’s attorney, Karie Boylan, told CBS Detroit.
Additionally, the Christmas tree in the office was decorated with different Santa Claus figurines, each named after the different officers on the force. The one for Brown was black, with “18%” written on the beard.
Brown has since filed a federal civil rights lawsuit for $500,000 and is also calling for better racial sensitivity training for the officers.
In responding to the suit, the City of Hastings claimed that it was Brown himself who kept bringing up his heritage and making inappropriate jokes about it, according to WOOD-TV. The officer involved in the Santa incident has apologized to Brown, and the city claims that the chief told the officers that further jokes about Brown’s heritage would not be tolerated.
However, Brown has insisted that he told Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt that he “was not upset and that he was proud of his African heritage.”