A police sergeant in the city of Hastings, Michigan is suing his department after he says he was subjected to racial taunts following (get this) a genetic test that he took on Ancestry.com which showed that he's 18 percent black.
According to MLive.com, sergeant Cleon Brown claims that he was called "Kunta," obviously after Roots character Kunta Kinte, and that his fellow officers whispered "Black Lives Matter" to him while pumping their fists as he walked past. Brown also claims that the city's ex-mayor, who retired in January, made racial jokes, including one where he used the word "negroid, at least two or three times."
He says that this past Christmas the department put up a tree and stockings to celebrate, and in his stocking was a black Santa figure with "18 percent" written on its beard.
Brown named the city, as well as the police chief, the city manager, the deputy chief and a fellow sergeant in a federal lawsuit, where he alleges state and federal civil rights violations, as well as violations of the state's Whistleblower Protection Act. Brown's lawsuit further made a claim that the department inflicted intentional and emotional distress.
However, the department has countered by saying that Brown is actually the one to blame. City Manager Jeff Mansfield (who is named in the suit) says that the police chief (also named in the suit) ordered the racial comments to stop, and also claims that Brown instigated all the "joking and banter."
"Sgt. Brown, in a very joking and jovial manner, informed several of his fellow officers that he had recently taken a DNA test through Ancestry.com and the results showed that he was 18% African American," Mansfield said in a statement. The city also pointed out that Ancestry.com doesn't include the term "African American" as one of their possible test results.
"Ancestry.com's website also states that the test results do not definitively reveal where a person's ancestors actually originated; only that there are shared characteristics in genes, which might or might not indicate a person's ancestors are actually from that geographic area," the statement continued.
The city also claims that the results were forgotten until Brown chose to bring them up again, which led to "mutual bantering" amongst officers. The city also claims that Brown partook in "typical racial stereotypes."
"After a month or so of Brown originally bringing it up, even that ended," they said.
Regarding the black Santa figure allegation that we mentioned like two minutes ago, the city says that figure was removed by another officer who brought up concerns about it with the chief. Furthermore they say that Brown told the chief it didn't upset him. After that incident, the city claims the chief said no more jokes would be made about Brown's heritage, and he also was reportedly concerned that Brown was initiating racial comments.
"The officer who placed the Santa in Brown's stocking then went to Brown to apologize ... since he heard that Brown was upset ... Sgt. Brown emphatically denied that he ever complained about it or that he was upset or offended by it and he even seemed confused that the issue was being raised," read their statement.
Brown, who was hired by Hastings in 1998, put together a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on January 4.
His lawyer, Karie Boylan, says that just after finding out about the complaint, the chief and deputy chief conducted "highly coercive, offensive, intimidating employee interviews asking only leading questions." She also says they "unfriended" Brown on Facebook, and wouldn't let him play in a charity basketball game.
Boylan says that Brown's health has been adversely affected by his stress levels following the string of events, and that he may not be medically able to continue working after all of this. He and his attorney are seeking a judgment of at least $500,000.
You can watch a local news report about the situation below: