White police officer sues city for discrimination . . .

... after finding out he had 18 percent African heritage and getting ridiculed for it.

Clinton Yates, The Undefeated | 5/12/2017, 9:36 a.m.
... after finding out he had 18 percent African heritage and getting ridiculed for it.
This officer's name is Cleon Brown. No, that's not an error.

When news first crossed my desk that a white man was suing his city in Michigan for discrimination, I shook my head. It instantly felt like another one of those bastardized versions of what people like to call reverse racism was rearing its head, and thus paradoxically exposing the real nature of white privilege. Or, to put it more plainly: Discrimination complaints likely don’t get heard until a white person claims to be the one affected.

There’s a lot to unpack with this. No. 1 is the obvious general culture around this police force and racial humor. According to a report, this problem started when a prank was played on the officer during the Christmas season, when someone in the department put a black Santa Claus with 18 percent written on it — the figure represented the percentage of his heritage that’s African — in his Christmas stocking. That, and people apparently calling him “Kunta,” set him off.

But there’s one single detail in this story that is hilarious. The man’s name is Cleon Brown.

Cleon. Brown. Look, I don’t have to go into a whole historical breakdown of names to point out that if you heard his name without seeing the person, you would automatically assume he was black. For what it’s worth, Cleon is actually a Greek name, but you know how these things go with years of conditioning and other societal factors that push people to give their kids different monikers.

Now, this is funny to people because folks like laughing at so-called nontraditional names. It’s also funny because it goes to the extreme. If that officer’s name is Justin White, this is an entirely different story in that regard. I’m willing to believe that being named Cleon Brown might have been the reason that a guy in Hastings, Michigan, would choose to investigate his heritage to begin with. As someone who’s been told that he sounds white — whatever that means, but we know what it means — I’m fascinated by this situation.

Most importantly, though, are the details of the nature of his concern. This paragraph in particular is telling.

“Brown filed a federal lawsuit alleging state and federal civil-rights violations and violation of the state’s Whistleblowers’ Protection Act. He claims intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Basically, he’s saying that he couldn’t possibly bear the burden of knowing that he’s partially black. Look, the insults and so on are obviously out of line, but the concept of defending one’s whiteness as a reason to levy a lawsuit is astounding. It’s not reverse racism. It’s reverse Rachel Dolezal.

Another interesting component here is that the only reason his department knew about this is because Brown chose to tell them. He says that people unfriended him on Facebook and “didn’t allow him to play in annual charity basketball games,” presumably because his newfound blackness probably gave him an unfair advantage on the court. This would be a good time to drop in this not-so-fun nugget about Jeremy Lin finding that the Ivy League was more racist than the NBA. Shocker.

Anyway, what Brown is asserting is that after telling them that he might have African blood in his heritage, his superiors and co-workers started treating him … like he was black. Nothing like finding yourself on the wrong side of the privilege line to find out that racism is real and thriving in the United States of America.

We can only hope that if nothing else, this informs his next decision when he pulls someone of color over.