A Republican candidate for mayor of St. Petersburg, FL recently told activists who support reparations for African-Americans to “go back to Africa."
Paul Congemi, who is white, made the remarks during a Tuesday mayoral forum in St. Petersburg.
Congemi, 60, directed the remarks at Jesse Nevel, another white mayoral candidate who leads a group advocating for reparations for African-Americans.
“Mr. Nevel, you and your people talk about reparations,” he said. “The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations.”
“Your reparations came in the form of a man named [former President] Barack Obama,” Congemi added, referencing the first African-American to become president.
“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.”
Some Twitter users on Thursday said Congemi’s remarks were disqualifying for a potential U.S. mayor.
Congemi told The Washington Post Wednesday that he has “nothing against African-Americans who are doing their best here in America.”
“I have never met Jesse Nevel until last night,” he said. “It’s obvious he is a self-hating white man.”
“[They’re] unhappy about the whole system in America,” Congemi added of Nevel and the Uhuru Solidarity Movement.
The Uhuru Solidarity Movement reportedly advocates for reparations for African-Americans for addressing racial inequality.
Nevel has also purportedly tackled other issues linked to race, including gentrification and police violence against minorities.
“[It] reflects a segment of my community,” Nevel said of Congemi’s remarks. “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.”
Congemi said Wednesday that he refuses to leave the mayoral race and that anyone who thinks his comments are racist misunderstood him.
“I’ll run again in 2019, and god willing, if I’m alive in 2021, I’ll run then too,” he said. “I intend to keep running and running and running.”