'Send me back to Africa' - a unique response to racism

Larry Mitchell Image copyright Facebook

"Put your money where your hate is."

This is the phrase being used by a crowdfunding campaign, currently going viral, which is being seen as a unique response to racism. The campaign seems to take racists at face value, and asks for donations in order for its black founder to be able to go "back to Africa."

Larry Mitchell, an African-American man from Kokomo, Indiana, started the clearly ironic GoFundMe petition, and has had his page shared more than 30,000 times on various social media platforms. In the blurb for the petition Mitchell wrote:

"If you want me to go back to Africa I will gladly go… you can help make your dream and mine come true… accepting all donations. KKK, Skin Heads and anyone else with like mind thinking are welcome to donate… Thank you.. God bless you and America… #putyourmoneywhereyourhateis."

Image copyright GoFundMe/LarryMitchell

"The petition started as a joke," Mitchell, an aspiring chef, told BBC Trending. "I was reading articles following the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile [black men killed in recent incidents involving US police], and there were comments underneath saying 'these black people should go back to Africa', so I started the petition to say 'fine I will if you pay for it'."

Mitchell has, at the time of writing, raised around $1,300 of his $100,000 target.

Some of those donating money do, in fact, seem to hold racist views and have taken the campaign at face value. A man named Howard McFonsworth donated $5 and accompanied it with the words "good bye" and a highly offensive racist slur. A user named "fedup whiteguy" also donated $5 and said "you better not come back".

Image copyright GoFundMe
Image caption Some comments left for Mitchell seemed to take the petition seriously

However, it seemed most people were in on the joke. A user named David Woo told Mitchell to take the money and enjoy it on a holiday, writing, "I am not a racist, but would love for you to go on some travels and experience the world. Have fun, man!!"

Jackson Lam agreed; "Hahaha! Love it. You're genius. Enjoy the trip, but do please come back - we need more clever ideas to solve our complex problems."

The majority of the comments were supportive, letting Mitchell know that he was welcome in America, and that they found his method of illustrating racial tensions in America refreshing.

Image copyright GoFundMe

The petition, which was started at the start of July, comes at a time of particular racial tension in the United States, following the recent killings of two black men by police and five police officers by a black gunman at protests in Dallas.

Mitchell says that the recent unrest is not surprising for him, "this happens all the time, every year - there are several unarmed black men being shot in the streets of America and it doesn't make it into the news.

He himself has been convicted of serious offenses, involving drugs, in the past and has served time in custody. Questioned about this by BBC Trending, he cited racism. "You have to understand the context of where I'm from. In Indiana, we've had Klan marches here. We had one of America's last public lynching here. There's an underlying racism that is still here. Black men are watched and targeted by the police."

Image copyright Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Image caption A man protests against the shooting of 12 year-old Tamir Rice by police near the site of the Republican National Convention.

Historically, the notion of "voluntary repatriation" to Africa has been a long discussed subject, used offensively by those holding racist views, but also finding some echoes among black leaders. A supporter of the idea was Marcus Garvey. Garvey was a Jamaican-born black nationalist who created a 'Back to Africa' movement during the early part of the 20th century in the United States, although he clarified that the idea didn't apply to all African-Americans. "We do not want all the Negroes in Africa. Some are no good here, and naturally will be no good there," he said.

Mitchell, in his GoFundMe page, also linked to Ghana's more recent 'Right of Abode' programme, which enables people of African descent to apply in order to stay indefinitely in the country.

But, if he has no plans to repatriate, what will Mitchell do with the pledged money?

"If I do hit the petition target, I will go on vacation somewhere in Africa because I have never been," he said. "But I will come back home."

Blog by Megha Mohan

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