When Larry Mitchell of Kokomo, IN put up the Send me to Africa GoFundMe campaign, he had absolutely no idea anyone but his coworkers and close friends would see it. Within days, the satirical campaign had made its way to news desks across the world, including a French paper and the BBC.
In his initial plea for $100,000, he writes:
Send me “back” to Africa fund… 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
“It was straight off the top of the head, there was no thought whatsoever put into it,” he told the Kokomo Tribune from the comfort of his dining room table. “It was straight off the head, spontaneous, just a joke.”
He says that all his life, he’s heard the phrase ‘go back to Africa,’ so decided to respond to potentially millions of racists at once with a joke campaign.
“It’s just like, wow, we are Americans. What do you mean, ‘Go back’? I’ve never been there before,” he said. “Instead of always being negative and trying to go back and forth, I just thought of a funny way to come back at them.
“That’s all it was, and I went to work and showed all my friends, and we laughed about it. And then, this happened.”
Mitchell says that he thought he’d delete the campaign in a couple days after getting a few laughs out of it, however his cousin passed away shortly after its creation and he actually forgot about it. That is, until international media discovered it (us included) and wanted to know more about the man behind the hashtag #putyourmoney where your hate is.
As surprised as he was, Mitchell said the feedback was positive, so he just went with it.
In fact, he tells the Kokomo Tribune that the campaign has actually made a positive impact on people around the world who have reached out to him to thank him for addressing the topic, if through a joke:
But it’s the worldwide feedback Mitchell’s received – he’s been contacted by people in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Senegal – that led to the realization that he’s become the unwitting leader of a global conversation on race relations.
“I just started rethinking it a little bit, because people were coming to me of all races, all walks of like, and they were telling me how this had touched them,” he said. “They were telling me their point of view on it, and I thought it was amazing that it had opened up some type of dialogue about racism on a real level.
“It’s just amazing, just to have all the positive feedback. And people actually get the joke, and they think it’s hilarious. I think that’s just the most beautiful thing.”
Meanwhile, he’s raised $1,820 and has decided to sell “put your money where your hate is” t-shirts. Though the campaign likely won’t physically send him to Africa, his message has clearly spread around the world. As for funds raised? He says he’s already used them for good, helping his cousin Tionna with travel expenses so she could compete in the Junior Olympics.
We’ve reached out to Mitchell to see if he wouldn’t mind taking a break from his international ‘celebrity’ duties and get on our podcast. We’ll keep you updated.