Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Tom Kelly calls the racial slur he wrote on Facebook “an old joke.”
But some people aren’t laughing.
On February 9, in response to a post on a friend’s Facebook page about a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation winter warning, Kelly wrote, “I fell on ice the other day, got up and my wallet was gone! Must have been black ice……:)”
The woman on whose Facebook page the comment appeared responded, “Lmao….Tk you are tooooo MUCH!!!!”
Another woman also responded.
“That is horrible!!!I can’t believe you would post it,” she wrote.
“Unless I am not understanding that post is highly offensive.”
“It’s a wisecrack,” wrote the woman on whose Facebook page Kelly’s comment appeared. “It’s funny chill.”
The exchange ended when the outraged woman wrote, “Backward PA humor I guess… it’s racist to those who know better.”
The Facebook host eventually deleted Kelly’s black ice comment.
“I’m not a racist,” Kelly said in a telephone interview last week.
The Wyoming Barracks Troop P community services/public information officer posted the comment from the Facebook page he set up and uses with an alias because he said he wants to be able to live “my own life.”
Kelly said he agrees his words would be inappropriate had he posted the comment as “Trooper Tom Kelly.”
But, Kelly - who also serves as director of Camp Cadet – a PSP summer camp for Pennsylvania boys and girls between 12 and 15 founded to “establish a positive relationship with law enforcement personnel” - said he should not be reprimanded because “it is private.”
Still, Kelly said he “absolutely” expects an internal PSP investigation into his behavior if his superiors receive a complaint.
“I’d be embarrassed if it got out,” he said.
Kelly grew defensive during the interview.
“You can’t live a life?” he asked. “I want to enjoy Facebook as well.”
“No offensive words. Like a stand-up comedy routine. Not black humor. Not white humor. Not official humor,” Kelly said.
So why isn’t everybody laughing?
“It was a joke in bad taste,” Kelly said.
When asked to explain the joke to people who might not get his sense of humor, Kelly said, “I don’t know. It’s a joke.”
Either you get it or you don’t, Kelly said, adding that he did not know how a black child at Camp Cadet or a black state trooper would react if he told them the joke. He said black children do attend the camp and that he jokes with black officers.
“This is what the world is coming to,” Kelly said, comparing his predicament to the lowering of the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina. Kelly said he does not have an opinion on officials’ decision to lower the rebel symbol of racial hatred.
Kelly said he recently saw a well-known black comedian perform a skit on “Saturday Night Live” that spoofed “killing white people.”
“I was offended,” Kelly said.
Conversely, he said “if somebody takes offense (at what he wrote), I’m sorry I offended you.”
“It’s kind of a crazy world,” Kelly continued. “Everybody thought race relations would improve with Obama. I believe he set it back.”
“If a white person mentions the word ‘black,’ it’s taboo. I don’t get that. Blacks can make comments about whites but whites can’t make comments about blacks,” Kelly said. “You can still pick on the Irish. St. Pat’s day you go into Walmart and (see) drunken Irish cards.”
As for his Facebook post, Kelly said “I meant no real harm.”
“It was just a joke. You know. Ha ha.”
Looking back, Kelly admits his bad judgement.
“It was a bad error,” he said. “When you read it to me, it’s like holy shit.”
Kelly declined an invitation to talk about the controversy on WILK News Radio.
“No, I just can’t go on the air and talk,” he said. “It’s kind of like a no-win situation.”
The woman who criticized Kelly’s black ice comment said she did not know the poster’s identity until I told her.