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Why I think Ryan Kelley’s announcement to run for Governor in Michigan can be a benefit to the anti-racism/Black Lives Matter movement

February 4, 2021

There has been a fair amount of coverage lately in West Michigan-based news media about one of the co-founders of the American Patriot Council, Ryan Kelley.

Most of the news coverage has centered around his involvement in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by White Nationalists, particularly whether or not Kelley entered the building or not. Frankly, I’m not as invested in whether or not Kelley entered the US Capitol on January 6, since I think the more important question is the role that he and fellow American Patriot Council play in fostering a political climate for White Nationalists and White Supremacy, something I pointed out in regards to his connection to some of those arrested for attempting to kidnap Governor Whitmer last Fall.

In addition, Ryan Kelley has been in the news because there is an effort to get him removed from the Allendale Township Planning Commission. Those involved in that effort have tried to get him removed because of his defense of the Civil War statue in Allendale, because of his connection to the Whitmer kidnapping plot and now because of his involvement in the January 6 White Nationalist attack at the US Capitol. Getting Ryan Kelley removed from the Planning Commission would be a win, but the more important goal should be to expose and undermine the American Patriot Council and all groups and institutions that promote White Supremacy.

In some ways, I think it is beneficial to the larger anti-racism/Black Lives Matter movement that Ryan Kelley has decided to run for Governor of Michigan. I say this, because it provides the anti-racism/Black Lives Matter movement an opportunity to talk about, challenge and confront White Supremacy in our communities. Having Ryan Kelley run for Governor will not only provide us with an opportunity to expose him and the American Patriot Council, it will expose those who contribute to his campaign. More importantly, Kelley’s decision to run for Governor should force all other candidates to take a much more radical stance on racial justice and if they don’t, the anti-racism/Black Lives Matter movement should pressure them to do so. Look, we can not be content with with saying, “at least the candidate we will vote for, isn’t a White Nationalist” or “at least our candidate didn’t participate in January 6 attack in the US Capitol.” Movement politics should also work towards moving politics towards a more radical and transformative position instead of being content with business as usual. 

With Ryan Kelley entering the race for Governor of Michigan, the anti-racism/Black Lives Matter movement should begin articulating what a vision for racial justice could look like in Michigan and then refuse to back any candidate for office, unless they adopt the platform and vision they put forth. The problem with a lesser evil voting mentality is that we fail to recognize the power we have when using the vote as one of the tactics in movement work. We should not be begging candidates to adopt more progressive platforms, candidates should be begging movements for their platforms and voters should be telling candidates that they will not vote for them unless movement platforms are adopted by candidates. Stop giving your power away!

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