Society

Billboard Campaign Attacking 'White Privilege' Causes Uproar

| by Michael Allen

In Duluth, Minnesota, a campaign attacking "white privilege" is causing an outrage. Billboards around the city feature faces of white people with captions such as: "It's hard to see racism when you're white."

The billboards are part of the Un-Fair Campaign, which also includes dozens of posters in office windows.

Hundreds of Duluth's white residents have complained that the images and messages are offensive because they blame all racism on whites and imply that white people can't recognize racism.

The campaign's defenders and sponsors, including Dulth Mayor Don Ness, say they've received dozens of hateful messages and e-mails from all over the world.

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Mayor Ness told the Star Tribune: "I became kind of a lightning rod for groups outside our community. It was disappointing to see the level of hate and ugliness."

One Duluth citizen, Phil Pierson, created a Facebook page called "Stop Racist Unfair Campaign" to air objections to it: "You can't open a discussion on race and hope to see it move in a positive direction when you raise the topic by stereotyping an entire race. It spreads animosity and hate, teaches a new generation to point fingers and [focuses] on the color of our skin instead of the idea that we're all human."

The Un-Fair Campaign has so has spent $4,600 according to Ellen O'Neill, executive director of the YWCA of Duluth, one of the campaign's 15 sponsors.

O'Neill said: "It's possible to never interact with a person of color here. It makes the problem more invisible."

O'Neill said that only 25 percent of Duluth's black students and 34 percent of American Indian students graduate from high school in four years, compared with 80 percent of white students.

Similarly, she said, census data says that only 18 percent of the city's whites live in poverty, compared to 67 percent of blacks and 56 percent of American Indians.