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If black St. Petersburg, Florida, constituents don’t see that President Barack Obama was a form of reparation, nor do they want to accept the conditions in this country, they can just “go back to Africa.”
That’s what Republican candidate Paul Congemi said to mayoral opponent Jesse Nevel and members of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, a socialist organization of white people who believe reparations can assist ending racial inequality, at a forum Tuesday. Nevel, who is white, is running on the slogan, “Unity through reparations,” and has also spoken against gentrification and police brutality.
“Mr. Nevel you and your people talk about reparations. The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations. Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama. My advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport. Go back to Africa. Go back to Africa. Go back,” Congemi said, pointing a finger at the crowd before making an ejection motion several times.
“Get out of here,” a woman in the audience is heard saying several times in a clip of the debate.
Sitting St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman condemned Congemi’s words the following day, saying it’s hateful, bigoted, and unacceptable toward black and gay Floridians. Congemi also believes homosexuality is “immoral.”
Nevel said Congemi’s comment “reflects a segment of my community. I’ve met plenty of other people who feel that way. That’s why I feel that it’s important for those of us in the white community to take a public stand with reparations.”
However, Congemi later told the Washington Post that he wasn’t encouraging all black people to go back to Africa—he has “nothing against African Americans who are doing their best here in America,” and only invited the people who are pushing for reparations to leave. He said they “heckled” him at the debate, and called Nevel a “self-hating white man.”
Congemi says he is a lifelong Democrat who became a Republican after President Obama announced his support for gay marriage, and now he’s a President Trump supporter. However, Trump himself has previously pledged his supposed support to the LGBTQ community, though such support remains to be seen.
Despite the disagreement expressed toward Congemi’s comments, he isn’t backing out of the race and thinks anyone who believes he is racist has misunderstood his comments. Should he lose, however, he’ll just run again.
“I’ll run again in 2019 and, God willing, if I’m alive in 2021, I’ll run then, too,” Congemi said. “I intend to keep running and running and running.”
H/T the Root
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.