Who knew getting the results of your ancestry could lead to a lawsuit? This is what happened to Michigan police officer Cleon Brown. Brown, who has identified as a White man his entire life, got his ancestry results back from Ancestry.com and learned that 18 percent of his DNA could be traced back to regions of Africa.
He was surprised and revealed this information to his colleagues at the Hastings Police Department. Brown said that’s when they started to treat him differently. According to Brown, his coworkers and superiors subjected him to a “hostile work environment” once they found out he had African ancestry. He has filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the city of Hastings as well as the police chief.
The hostility at work began for Brown during the holiday season when a personalized note on his Christmas stocking on the Christmas tree in the police department’s lobby had a Black Santa Claus with “18 percent” written on the beard. Another instance was when the police chief called him “Kunte” like the character from “Roots.” Other officers would also whisper “Black Lives Matter” when he walked by.
Racial jokes also came from the mayor. Brown’s attorney, Karie Boylan, told CBS Detroit, “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.”
Hastings has acknowledged the Santa incident occurred, but the officer responsible apologized.
It sounds like this police department and city had deep-seeded issues with race long before Brown got his ancestry results.