What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

White police officer sues city for discrimination

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

1:27 PMWhen 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.

https://twitter.com/joneicharlena/status/862176915263705088

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.

Solange is about that Rockets life

… and her throwback photo game is solid

1:15 PMhttps://twitter.com/solangeknowles/status/861979147333234688

Every once in a while you get a tweet so fun, so genuine and so natural from a true star that you just want to stand and applaud. Today, Solange Knowles gave us that. While the Los Angeles Times is just now figuring out that Houston is one of the most diverse places in America, this great photo tells that story in one fell swoop.

But, since we’re here, let’s take a trip down memory lane. That season was a strange one in the NBA. It was the second year of Michael Jordan’s absence, and the Rockets had beaten the Knicks in the finals the year before. You might remember that series for a little situation we like to call “the O.J. Chase.” It interrupted the game, and the rest is history.

Houston had also traded for Clyde Drexler before the 1994-95 season, a reunion of two guys (with Hakeem Olajuwon) who had played together in Houston, no less, in college. The Oilers were still there. This was effectively Houston’s heyday as far as sports were concerned. The Astros were decent, finishing second in the National League Central that year. Ken Caminiti was still alive.

Anyway, facing off against the Spurs on Tuesday night to potentially take a commanding lead in the series on the back of James Harden, with Patrick Beverley still mourning his grandfather and the Spurs looking like it might be time for them to step aside in the Western Conference, the Rockets are a team you should have no problems rooting for.

Or, in shorter terms, they’ve got a seat at our table.

Daily Dose: 5/9/17

Shaq is getting serious about this law enforcement stuff

1:05 PMTuesday is my favorite Wu-Tang Clan rapper’s birthday, which officially makes me an old man, but I ain’t ashamed of that. Ghostface Killah is 46 years old Tuesday. Here’s the greatest trash-talk video of all time, btw.

Travel is stressful. We all know that. Between the money it costs, the nonsense we all have to go through now to feel safe and the general pressure that comes with trying to move humans, people don’t always have the best demeanor when things go wrong. In the past few months, we’ve seen quite a few incidents of people losing their cool on planes and things rising to a physical level. Now, things have spilled over into the terminal side of things, with folks brawling over canceled flights.

I don’t have children. Part of the reason is that I remember how difficult my relationship was with my parents, and if I’m ever lucky enough to bring people into this world, I can’t imagine how I’ll act if they treat me the way I treated my folks. But that said, many of my friends have kids, and the stuff they go through is really quite trying, obviously. Some stories end with moral quandaries that I just can’t imagine dealing with from a leadership standpoint. This tale of a kid who punched his best friend for being racist is one of them. I hope this works out.

Sometimes I wish I knew someone on reality TV. As in, I don’t need a show myself, but it would be fun to know someone who was basically getting paid to party on camera and every once in a while had some drama that you could observe from nearby. I’m kidding. That would be a mess. But that said, The Real Housewives of Atlanta produced one of the best TV moments I’ve ever seen. Turns out, Phaedra got fired for insinuating that one of her castmates wanted to drug and rape someone. Meanwhile, this clip is tremendous.

https://twitter.com/Halocarterr/status/861709650324074498/video/1

Shaquille O’Neal’s relationship with law enforcement is an interesting one. He’s talked before about wanting to be an officer of sorts, occasionally pulling TV stunts that involve him doing ride-alongs and or being deputized for various reasons. Now, the NBA legend is claiming that he wants to run for sheriff somewhere in the coming years. Cool, fine, sure. But this should serve as a reminder that law enforcement is an elected position in many places, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of this nation.

Free Food

Coffee Break: I could go on a long rant about how awful the international soccer governing body FIFA is, but I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to point out that in a moment that could have led to some real change in that god-awful organization, they decided to elect someone who is completely unqualified for the council. This, obviously, is the work of dudes.

Snack Time: Yo, Lonzo Ball kinda has bars. I mean, I’m not saying he needs to drop an album, but his flow is not awful and his crew isn’t terrible either. I’m always here for bad rap from basketball players. This doesn’t suck tho.

Dessert: This is like Christmas in May.

Daily Dose: 5/8/17

Chris Rock’s business is officially in the streets

12:00 PMThis weekend, we called on my buddy Field Yates to debut America’s favorite new game show, Yates vs. Yates. As always is the case, Yates wins. Anyways, here’s the podcast. Or all three hours, too.

Speaking of people named Yates, there’s an important one on Capitol Hill today. Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is going to testify about the potential involvement of Russia in the 2016 election. This situation seems to be making President Donald Trump nervous, as he’s up and tweeting about it already. Mind you, he fired her, so her coming back to reveal who knew what and when they knew it is clearly a potential problem. Mind you, she was fired for her stance on Trump’s travel ban, which will be argued today as well. Who’s got time to govern, anyway?

Remember back when Trump took photos in the Oval Office with all those black college presidents and others connected with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)? Pulled that okeydoke on all those leaders with Kellyanne Conway sitting on the couch like she was at a sleepover. Yeah, so, turns out he was actually questioning why historically black colleges get the funding they do from the government. Or something like that, because last night he released another statement claiming his unwavering support for the HBCU community. It’s confusing to say the least.

How many jobs do you have? These days, if you’re not operating with at least two, you’re lucky. Everyone has a side hustle these days, because it’s not like job security is something we can all rely on. If you’re not driving Uber on weekends, you’re probably selling your wares on Instagram or just working another gig like the rest of us. But now that the economy is being reshaped by a workforce that isn’t particularly keen on just clocking in and out from 9 to 5 like yesteryear, you have to wonder: Is this what the future will be?

Chris Rock is a superstar. His work in the comedy world is the stuff of legend. If you were to create a modern-day Mount Rushmore of black comedians, you’d be hard-pressed to keep his name off the list. He’s also found quite an intriguing way to monetize his life story in a way that only the best storytellers can. There’s a TV show loosely based on his childhood, and he made two movies presumably based on his relationship in marriage. He also made a movie about black hair based on his experiences. Now he’s talking pretty openly about said relationships in life.

Climbing mountains is an excellent feat. If you believe in the physical conquests, the act of getting up to a high summit, if for no other reason than to say you did it, is impressive. But some are harder than others. Take, for instance, Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. There’s an entire cottage industry around people trying to get to the top, and sometimes folks pay the ultimate price. And such a thing happened again recently, when an 85-year-old man died at a base camp. Officials are now thinking about putting an age limit on the task.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you don’t know why people don’t trust body cameras, here’s a perfect example. Just because they are cameras doesn’t mean that everything you see on them is real. Check out this story about an officer who staged an entire stop in Colorado. The case was eventually thrown out.

Snack Time: The coded language of race, when it comes to discussing who we are as a nation, is always tricky to navigate. But think about what someone means when they say that the system has failed them.

Dessert: Martha Stewart is still the gawd.

Daily Dose: 5/5/17

LeBron James is on a whole other level

2:49 PMToday is Cinco de Mayo, which means that if you can help it, please, please, please do not pull some racist nonsense and act like you didn’t know because you thought it was a Mexican holiday. That ain’t cool at all, good friend.

The House Republicans did the unfortunately not unthinkable yesterday. They decided that repealing Obamacare was a smart move and then decided to celebrate the entire matter in public. To further twist the knife, Rep. Jason Chaffetz showed up on a knee scooter to vote for this bill that would add to the cost of health care for folks with pre-existing conditions, like his own, that he’s ostensibly recovering from. Pretty unbelievable gall for a guy who’s leaving under a weird cloud, no less. Next up: the Senate’s version of this whole deal.

Speaking of politics, the president is still top of mind. The real estate mogul turned commander in chief is, if nothing else, a New Yorker through and through. His history in that city is well-documented, from his buildings to his antics in politics and the local papers. But now he lives between Washington, D.C., and Florida with his wife, Melania, who is staying in the Big Apple with their son. He came back to the city this week for the first time in a while, though — and, oh, guess what, people there still don’t like him.

When it comes to high school yearbooks, I know a thing or two. I was lucky enough to design the cover of mine in my senior year, and I was a regular contributor in other years. People get really serious about the things they write in said keepsakes. My last year of high school, a bunch of people wrote a bunch of randomly out-of-line things in their shoutouts section and the school decided to hold the yearbooks and cut out those pages, literally and physically. It was a mess. So props to this girl for getting one of the greatest quotes of all time through to print.

As far as I’m concerned, LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time. Sorry, it is what it is. It’s not really worth a long argument, because as long as Michael Jordan is a name that people remember, this conversation will never be able to be had in any real way, as it’s just too hard to topple that legacy. But, come on, James is SUCH a player. He’s toying with people in these streets and making it look like the easiest thing on earth. Fam, it’s the NBA. It’s not easy. He says he wasn’t trying to disrespect anyone with this move.

Free Food

Coffee Break: People talk a whole lot of trash when it comes to lauding their skills at video games. It’s a basic rite of passage for a lot of people. If you suck at playing sports games, it’s just below a hit to the ego as not being as good at the sport itself. Well, actual sports games are now coming to esports, which is a very interesting combination.

Snack Time: If I’m being honest with myself, my relationship with my phone is a damaged one. I’m way too connected to it, in so many ways. But it could be hurting you in more ways than one.

Dessert: This is one of the best playlists ever. Great for the weekend.