Founders Brewing GM Says He Didn’t Know Black Employee Was Black

The brewery is currently under questioning in relation to a racial-discrimination lawsuit

The popular Breakfast Stout from Michigan's Founders Brewing
Mike Mozart/Flickr Creative Commons
By Kirk Miller / October 22, 2019 11:41 am

On his old Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, talk show host/conservative caricature Stephen Colbert used to talk about how he “didn’t see color.”

It got big laughs. It was a ridiculous statement. And it’s even more ridiculous that someone is currently using the exact same defense in a racial discrimination lawsuit.

Tracy Evans is a former manager at the Grand Rapids, MI-based Founders Brewing, which is currently the 15th-largest brewery operation in the country. He was also one of the first employees of color at the popular craft brewery. Evans accused the company of having a “racist internal corporate culture,” which included employees using the n-word and labeling a printer for lower-tier employees as the “black guy printer,” as reported by the Detroit Metro Times.

Evans was allegedly fired while prepping a second formal complaint to human resources. The details of that firing have come under heavy scrutiny, however, since a transcript of an exchange between Founders’ Detroit general manager Dominic Ryan and Evan’s attorney Jack Schulz has come to light.

Evans is African-American. Ryan, during questioning, seems unwilling to confirm this obvious fact (“I mean, like, I don’t know his DNA”). He also alleges he doesn’t know if Barack Obama, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick or Michael Jordan are African-American.

Behold the following exchange:

Schulz: OK, are you aware Tracy is Black?

Ryan: What do you mean by that?

Schulz: Are you aware Tracy is African-American?

Ryan: I’m not sure of his lineage so I can’t answer that.

Schulz: Alright. Are you aware that Tracy is a man of color?

Ryan: What do you mean by that?

A Founders attorney sent the following statement to the Metro Times: “Mr. Ryan was simply saying that he does not assume anything about individuals’ race or ethnicity unless they tell him that information. While it might be acceptable to speculate about this type of thing in conversation, Mr. Ryan was not having a casual conversation. He was under oath when he made these statements.”

As Schulz suggested to the Washington Post, arguing on whether Founders discriminated against Evans as a minority would require his managers to acknowledge he is a minority.

And for that, there is no question. Except, apparently, in a court room.

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