Opinion

Dear Congressman Mike Kelly, You’re White

Caption: Congressman Mike Kelly, very white man on left, claims to be a “person of color.” (White House Photo)

By Aryanna Berringer
Pittsburgh Current Columnist
aryanna@pittsburghcurrent.com

It’s almost August and it’s time to start firing up the base for 2020.

At least that’s what Presidential candidates think; you and I know we still have important elections in November.

Democrats are thoughtfully evaluating the plethora of potential presidential candidates based on issues that are most important to them. Then, there is President Trump.

As most people know, last week in a series of tweets, Trump told four progressive female Democrats to “go back and fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” The “squad” of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Talib, that Trump was referring are all US Citizens and 3 of 4 of them were born in the United States (Representative Omar came to the US as a refugee more than 20 years ago).  

I think this is Trump’s attempt to chum the waters to get his base engaged in his upcoming Presidential rallies and give them something to get behind. The proof is that when he spoke in Greenville, NC at length about these congresswomen by name, the crowd began to chant “send her back” very similar to the “lock her up” chant from the 2016 election.

While the Pennsylvania delegation was mixed on the tweet and comments made by the President, some Republicans in more competitive districts leaned towards condemning the President’s thoughts. Those in Republican districts that are considered safe, toed the party line. And one Congressman, in particular, stood out. Representative Mike Kelly told a reporter, “You know, they talk about people of color. I’m a person of color. I’m white.”  

Now Kelly, an extremely white man, is certainly not a person of color. Hell, I’ve spent a good portion of my life having people question whether or not I am a person of color and my dad is black.

Just to be clear, Mike Kelly, you are NOT a person of color. 

It was all some twisted attempt to back the president, regardless of how ridiculous he sounded. But, Kelly isn’t sitting in some safe, Republican district. With the Congressional redistricting that happened in 2018, the 16th District has become one of the more competitive districts in the country; one that Democrats can actually flip in 2020. Ron DiNicola ran a somewhat uninspiring campaign and still came close to beating Kelly, losing by just five points. And the DCCC has already added the 16th as a target for 2020. 

So far, Democrats have one announced candidate against Kelly and that is Daniel Smith who ran against state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe in 2018. Smith would be the first openly gay congressperson from Pennsylvania in the history of our commonwealth.

When I read the tweet about Kelly, my first reaction was OMG; my second was why? Why would he think that doubling down on the president’s comment with an equally racist charge of his own was a good thing to do? Does he also believe that he’s got to begin to bloody the water in an attempt to get those who turned out in 2016 to get behind him in 2020? Was the race in 2018 so close that he feels as though aligning himself even further with Trump will ensure his victory? 

Most people know that Trump is a racist and he’s always looking for opportunities to divide our nation. We must make sure that we don’t fall prey to the antics of the President and Republicans like Mike Kelly. To do so, let’s stay focused on a couple of things:

  1. Democrats need to win elections this November to build momentum for 2020.
  2. Win back the 16th Congressional District. 

The Trumpers attending rallies chanting “send her back” got one thing right; we should be sending “her” back. In fact, we need to send all of the squad back to Congress to stand up to the racism and vitriol that is spewed by the President and politicians like Mike Kelly. Let’s make sure they understand that embracing racism to win votes won’t get you elected.

 

Editor’s Disclosure: Daren Berringer, husband of Aryanna Berringer, is working on Daniel Smith’s congressional campaign.

 

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