For all of his life, Grand Rapids police officer Sgt. Cleon Brown thought he was part Native American.
However, after his daughter was born with an illness typically associated with African Americans, he decided to dig a little deeper into his ancestry. He signed up for the site Ancestory.com with some fellow officers, Oxygen writes.
Brown learned he was, in fact, not Native American, and was actually 18 percent African American.
Now Brown is claiming this newfound knowledge has come with a series of harassments from his co-workers and is suing the city of Hastings for discrimination. He is also suing Police Chief Jeff Pratt, City Manager Jeff Mansfield, Deputy Chief Dale Boulter, and Sgt. Kris Miller for allegedly violating the state's Whistleblowers' Protection Act, Mlive reports.
Brown listed a number of alleged instances in which he faced racist remarks.
In the federal lawsuit, Brown details one instance when, at a Christmas party, he was given a stocking, which included a black Santa toy, with “18%” written on it.
City Manager Jeff Mansfield is calling Brown's accusations false.
According to Mlive, Mansfield said:
“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.”
Meanwhile, the city is claiming that Ancestory.com doesn't even work how Brown is claiming:
“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.”
To make matters even more confusing, Oxygen reports that the city is claiming Brown started the racial jokes and has a long history of making such remarks.
But Brown doesn't see it that way.
Brown, a 7-year veteran of the U.S. Army, was hired by the police department in 1998 said, “all the years I’ve been there we never joked about race,” Oxygen reports.
Among other taunts listed in the lawsuit, Brown claims to have been called “Kunta” while other officers whispered, “Black Lives Matter” at him when he would walk by.
Brown's lawsuit also alleges that Mayor Campbell used the word “Negroid,” at least two or three times" in a joke.
Brown says he told the officers to stop, but the harassment persisted.
The police chief said he recognizes the incident at the Christmas party and said he reprimanded the officers. He states that when he asked Brown if he was OK, Brown insisted it did not bother him.
Brown is asking for $500,000 from the department to make up for the emotional distress he suffered.