HASTINGS, Michigan — A Michigan cop has filed a racial discrimination suit against his department, saying he became the subject of non-stop racist taunting after discovering he had black ancestry.
Sgt. Cleon Brown, 49, said in his civil suit that the police chief repeatedly called him “Kunta,” after the character Kunta Kinte in the famed slave epic, “Roots,” by Alex Haley. He said others whispered “Black Lives Matter,” and raised their fists in a black power salute as he walked past.
And at Christmas time, the sergeant said he found a black Santa figurine with “18%” written on its beard, in a stocking that hung in the department with Brown’s name on it.
The figure was a reference to the 18% black ancestry Brown discovered he had when he had done an Ancestry.com genetic test. Brown says department staff grew increasingly chilly towards him after he objected to the taunts, and began to ignore him completely after he filed a complaint with the equal employment opportunity commission.
The suit, filed in federal court, names Police Chief Jeff Pratt, City Manager Jeff Mansfield, and several others.
The department and Mansfield countered that it was Brown who started the racial bantering and that others just followed suit when he would joke about his black ancestry. They accused Brown on engaging in “typical racial stereotypes.”
City officials told MLive.com that they weren’t even sure if Brown’s genetic makeup even qualified him as a protected class under civil rights laws.
Brown has served on the force since 1998 and had spent seven years in the Army before joining the Hastings department.