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.
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.
Jodeci is still doing the most
Their VH1 ‘Dear Mama’ performance was eventful, to say the least
Gather around, kiddos, and let me tell you a story. There was once an R&B group called Jodeci. They were the bad boys to Boyz II Men’s preppy style, and their tapes and CDs were the ones that kids hid from their parents because they were too nasty. For reference, a young Sean Combs was the one who helped shape their look. The rest is history, as some say, with multiple jams that will be sung at gospel brunches forever.
For my money, the peak of their powers came in 1996, when Raekwon and Ghostface Killah jumped a remix of their song “Freek’n You.”
Then things fizzled and K-Ci and JoJo became their own act, with much success. You know the words to “All My Life” even if you don’t know that you do. From there came years of touring, a couple of incidents with the law (one involving K-Ci exposing himself to the crowd at a concert) and, of course, a reality show. If you hadn’t been paying close attention to that point, you didn’t know that both of them had dealt with major substance abuse problems. All this led up to a situation in which JoJo passed out on stage, ostensibly because of exhaustion.
All that’s to say they’ve come a long way. Fast-forward to now, and they’re performing at VH1’s Dear Mama special and still acting wild. My colleague Domonique Foxworth seems to think that at the 3:15 mark of the video above, K-Ci, while wandering the crowd and singing, shakes up a woman’s wig as part of his bit. Personally, I don’t think so. If this really were a wig, a) she would have been WAY more upset about this whole incident, and b) it would have probably fallen off.
As a general rule, though, messing with black women’s hair for kicks is a mega no-go. Only an R&B singer midperformance gets away with that without getting popped. Anyway, I guess it’s good to know that Jodeci hasn’t lost a step.
Betsy DeVos’ commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University did not go well
Protests and boos mar secretary of education’s HBCU appearance
— Lorraine Berry (@BerryFLW) May 10, 2017
When it was first announced that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would be speaking at Bethune-Cookman University’s commencement, many jaws dropped. What on earth would an uber-rich white woman who admittedly had never had any interaction with student loans on any level be able to teach a group of upwardly mobile students at an HBCU? It’s a fair question.
To review, she botched her praise of historically black institutions out of the gate, when she called them pioneers of school choice. As if, you know, black folks chose on their own to segregate major universities. That gaffe aside, there’s also the matter of what President Donald Trump did. After claiming to pledge his undenying support to HBCUs, he then publicly questioned their funding channels. In short, little respect has been shown.
So when it finally went down on Wednesday, things did not go well. Edison O. Jackson, the university’s president, basically wanted to give this woman a chance and perhaps, in the meantime, get some shine too. What he ended up with was an embarrassing mess for the more-than-a-century-old school in Daytona Beach, Florida.
See for yourself.
— Xtopher Go Bragh (@tommyxtopher) May 10, 2017
Loud boos and some applause for Betsy DeVos as she receives her honorary degree. The boos at the mention of Trump's name are deafening.
— Molly Hensley-Clancy (@mollyhc) May 10, 2017
It’s also worth noting that things got VERY petty between school brass and students. After putting together a petition to try to prevent the speech from happening, the school’s official Twitter page tweeted this out. The shade is very real.
— Bethune-Cookman (@bethunecookman) May 9, 2017
What makes this particularly unfortunate is not DeVos herself. It’s about the fact that graduation ceremonies are in large part exactly that: ceremonial. Any attempt to make it about anyone other than the students who’ve worked so hard to be in position to say they earned a degree is a selfish one. If the idea was “All press is good press” then sure, you’ve achieved your goal.
But for all the parents, friends and family members who made trips to see their loved ones finally walk across that stage, Jackson basically ruined their special day. He knew full well this was going to be ugly, and he apparently didn’t care. It doesn’t even matter what she had to say. The president ruined commencement for his students, a day on which people are supposed to learn life lessons going forward. Or, in school terms: He failed.
You can watch it all here.
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Or, check this thread from The Chronicle’s Adam Harris.
Students stand back up and turn their backs.
— adam harris (@AdamHSays) May 10, 2017
We are Bethune-Cookman University. And best believe Mary taught us well. pic.twitter.com/mi8fFoao3D
— S M U R F 🐐 (@smurfresh) May 10, 2017
Daily Dose: 5/10/17
The nation’s capital has a lot going on
11:40 AMWednesday is the biggest day in Washington, D.C., sports in a long time. The Capitals are in a Game 7. The Wizards have a very important Game 5. And the Nationals are playing the Baltimore Orioles. I’ll be in my bunker, chewing my nails off.
So, let me try to explain this. President Donald Trump fired James Comey, who was the head of the FBI. Comey was the man responsible for investigating whether Trump was involved with Russia in an improper way. The man who suggested it was Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, who had to recuse himself from the investigation because he himself was caught meeting with Russian officials. Meaning, we might never find out what’s true in this situation because Trump can appoint someone who might just drop the investigation altogether. Total debacle.
Perhaps as important to our nation’s welfare, Census Bureau director John Thompson resigned Tuesday. If you don’t know, that agency does a whole lot of things beyond just count how many people are in the country. It takes surveys on public health, and the data it collects is used by all sorts of other groups for various reasons. And in some places in America, it’s actually a dangerous job to knock on people’s doors and ask them, for example, who lives there. With a funding problem looming for the agency, dude just decided to leave. Very ominous.
There are people in this world without whom I probably wouldn’t have a job. There was a time when being a black person meant that your avenues to the world of journalism and, in general, public discourse were so limited that you had to be considered a genius to get a seat at the table. But the trailblazers who made a point of showcasing our talent, our skill and our mettle are as important as the stars. One of those people was Eddie Williams, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies for 32 years. He died Monday at 84.
More bad news on the death front. You might not know Christopher Boykin by his government name. But Big Black, who came to fame via the MTV show Rob & Big, was a complete cult hero. For many it was the original completely stupid reality show. For one dumb young man looking to become a media personality, it was a total inspiration. Big Black spun off his own clothing line that did relatively well considering where it started, but his tagline, “Do work, son,” will live on. I loved this dude so much. He was 45.
Rest in peace, Christopher "Big Black" Boykin. pic.twitter.com/QLMnZEFni8
— MTV News (@MTVNews) May 10, 2017
Shout out to LaVar Ball. He’s managed to pull off this carnival barker act for some time, and still, somehow, it’s definitely working. His media parade won’t end anytime soon because, well, his son is gonna be quite a good NBA player, hopefully. But his claims are getting more outlandish by the day. Which is part of the reason I love him, to be honest. He did his TV circuit yesterday and managed to mention Michael Jordan’s name in a derogatory way, which always sets off old heads. LaVar is already a legend in his own mind, and mine too, ha.
Coffee Break: We love Larry Wilmore. He’s been responsible and a part of some of the most important shows of our time, so when he walks in the room, he gets respect. Now, he’s got a new podcast with The Ringer and it’s called Black On the Air, which is pretty tremendous.
Snack Time: A white guy took an AncestryDNA test and figured out that he was 18 percent African, according to the results. He was then made fun of by his co-workers. That white guy is a police officer. And now he’s suing everyone.
Dessert: We. Must. Protect. Simone. Biles. At. All. Costs.
— WILDFANG (@wearewildfang) May 10, 2017
Solange is about that Rockets life
… and her throwback photo game is solid
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.
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.
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.
So Chris Rock had an affair with Kerry Washington….🤔
While filming a movie about having an affair with Kerry Washington? 🤔 https://t.co/QgV0DXs2SG
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) May 7, 2017
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.
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.
Can confirm this Martha Stewart photo is real pic.twitter.com/F3S6jADvo6
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) May 8, 2017