After facing racial harassment and discrimination in the workplace, Sergeant Cleon Brown has filed a federal EEOC lawsuit against the police department of Hastings, Michigan.
That sounds reasonable enough, until you learn that Sgt. Cleon Brown was living as a white man until a recent Ancestry.com test informed him that he was 18% African American.
Of course, a couple of obvious questions comes to mind, such as 1) What the fuck? And 2) How does a man named Cleon Brown not know that he's Black?
On the one hand, it's understandable. Not everyone knows everything about their family tree, and it's entirely possible that a few racial details got lost along the way. Maybe Cleon—who looks like a fairly generic white guy—had a light-skinned great grandmother who married into whiteness. Maybe he's got the same family background as Valet de Chambre from The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson (the most convoluted of Mark Twain's novels). Maybe race is a social construct and appearance cannot be the sole measurement of one's ethnic and/or racial identity. Maybe Cleon was adopted. The possibilities are endless.
On the other hand, in a world where every white girl at Coachella knows exactly what percentage of Cherokee she, how the fuck did Cleon not know he was a whole 18% Black? (Or 9/50th Black if you prefer fractions. And if you're the rare fan of both math and antebellum legislation, that would make him 82.8% of a person according to the Three-Fifths Compromise.)
There is, of course, a good chance that Cleon is white, and Ancestry.com test results probably shouldn't be taken so seriously as to be the basis of a federal lawsuit. But for the sake of argument (and because it's way more fun to assume he's just a few points shy of being a quadroon), I'm willing to give Cleon the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, his fellow officers were less accepting.
Cleon alleges that when he opened up to his coworkers about his newfound racial identity, they were—get this—a little bit rude to him.
According to Cleon, both his superiors and coworkers frequently made disparaging remarks about his race (which seems reasonable, considering he worked in a police station). Others claim that it was Cleon who initiated racial banter in the workplace (which also sounds reasonable, considering he was a white guy who suddenly found himself with carte blanche to make off-color race jokes). So ultimately, it's unclear who's at fault. It's also unclear whether or not Ancestry.com test results qualify someone for federal protection under civil rights laws. Actually, everything about this case is both nebulous and shitty, and the only indisputable lesson to be learned from this fiasco is that people are selfish assholes who only care about themselves.
Cleon Brown spent nineteen years as an officer of the Hastings Police Department, which means that, for the better part of two decades, he was either ignorant to or comfortable with his co-workers' racial bigotry. It's only now that he's personally affected by racism that he's filing a federal lawsuit, and the man hasn't even been black for a full year. That's got to be some sort of record.
What a whimp! Some people face racism for their entire lives. Poor ol' Cleon couldn't even make it 365 days without getting tired of his co-workers and causing a scene—which, when you think about it, is actually a pretty Black thing of him to do. That's not half bad for only 18%.
It's like Christopher Marlowe's fictional, gay alter-ego William Shakespeare famously said: "Be not afraid of Blackness. Some are born Black (like most Black people), others achieve Blackness (like, to a certain extent, Rachel Dolezal), and some have Blackness thrust upon them (like officer Cleon Brown and/or all of Kris Jenner's children)."