Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) had a most interesting (read: completely dangerous) response to Donald Trump’s relentless and racist attacks on four progressive Democratic Congresswomen of color. In case you have been living under a rock where politics cannot penetrate, The Donald spent the week telling Reps. Rashida Tlaib (R-MI), Ayanna Pressley (R-MA), Ilhan Omar (R-MN), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (R-NY) to “go back” to their “crime infested” home countries. Interestingly enough, Trump Says Minnesota Can’t stand Ilhan Omar. His Attacks Have Made Her Even More Popular Back Home.
Of course, everyone knows that this is an age-old racist trope that has been tossed at people of color and anyone who did not qualify as white at any given point in this nation’s history. It was even used against Italian, Irish, and Jewish immigrants in the past, though those populations have now achieved whiteness (however with the anti-Semitic attacks as of late, that is debatable in some contexts). However, what Rep. Kelly did in response to all of this is most bizarre: He said that he, too, is a person of color in his assertion that Trump is not racist for saying what he said. Rep. Kelly told Vice News:
“They talk about people of color. I’m a person of color. I’m white. I’m an Anglo-Saxon. People say things all the time, but I don’t get offended.”
Now, anyone who is not completely ignorant knows that “people of color” is an umbrella term for anyone who is non-white. That means Africans/African Americans, LatinX people, Native/Indigenous people, people of Asian descent, and anyone else who has not or could not achieve whiteness. That is what makes what this man is saying so dangerous, especially right now.
It is bad enough that there has been either defense of Trump’s comments and repeated acts of racism or complete silence from most Republicans. But this man has taken it to a whole other level. What he is doing erases the discrimination, trauma, systemic oppression, incarceration, stereotypes, and even death that people of color experience every single day, from cradle to grave, all as a result of systemic racism.
It minimizes the dangerous effects of the racist “SEND HER BACK!” chants that Trump’s raucus North Carolina crowd directed at Rep. Omar after Trump’s five-minute broadside against the Congresswoman. It puts a target on the back of every person of color in America – but especially this sitting member of Congress who has already been the subject of death threats. It gives his racist supporters permission to do just what Trump is doing, and worse. In fact, there was already an incident in a Chicago-area convenience store in which a clerk told a Mexican-American girl to “go back” to her country, even though she was born here. He also demanded to know if her cousins were “legal.”
This is the sort of thing that emboldens white people to call the police on people of color, and on Black people in particular, just for doing ordinary things, such as the YouTube employee who called the police on a man just waiting for his friend. (By the way, the man’s name is Chris Cukor, and he is in the San Francisco Bay Area). Watch the video here.
But back to Rep. Kelly. He is a perfect example of how white people what to appropriate the cultures of people of color, and become one of us when it suits them. However, if you ever ask one of them if they would actually like to be a person of color, their answer is always a resounding “HELL NO!” That is because, at their core, they know that their whiteness is their protection in a world that is overtly hostile to people who do not look like them. Further, they know that they benefit from racism and a system of white supremacy. They would never want to give that up.
Rep. Mike Kelly, though, is a special kind of stupid. Even the most ignorant of white people would never claim to be a person color – until now. Hopefully this does not become a trend. The most dangerous possibility is that it works to eliminate the idea of the existence of racism at all, and it will truly be open season on all of us, even more so than it already is. Batten down your hatches, folks. As we approach the 2020 election, things are about to get a lot worse for us in Donald Trump’s America.
Cover Photo: MSNBC