University Of Wisconsin-Superior Defends “Un-Fair” Campaign Amid Racial Criticism
The University of Wisconsin-Superior has issued a statement in defense and support of its “Un-Fair” campaign, a series of local advertisements designed to raise public understanding of white privilege and ward off misconceptions regarding the nature of racism despite mounting criticism from conservative bloggers and pundits.
The campaign, which has the mission statement of aiming to “raise awareness about white privilege in our community,” has designed the campaign to tackle one of the most challenging aspects of racism in modern america, namely that “[i]t’s hard to see racism when you’re White.”
The ads themselves show a number of Caucasian people with statements such as “we’re privileged because people see us, not a color” and “society was set-up for us” written in marker on their faces, and has been running on TV stations in UW-Superior’s neighboring Duluth-Superior metropolitan area, which was reported to be 91.9% non-hispanic white in the 2010 census.
Conservative pundits and bloggers have voiced criticism over the ad’s intent and message, labelling them as “racially charged.” One Duluth-Superior area resident, Ann Reyelts, wrote in to Duluth’s News Tribune in complaint of the ad.
“To assume that it’s hard for whites to understand racism is insulting to my intelligence,” Reyelts told the paper. “I get what they’re trying to say, but I don’t think that’s the way to go about it.”
Despite the backlash the ads have received, UW-Superior issued a statement last week in defense of the ads, stating that the university is ”proud to host the diversity dialogues,” but will ”reshape the message” to ease divisions in the community.
“We have an obligation to engage in difficult conversations about complex, even controversial social issues, with a goal of finding workable solutions,” read the statement.
UW-Superior also added that the media’s coverage of the controversy has unfairly characterized the school as being the only organization responsible for the ad campaign.
“In fact, the campus is part of a coalition of 16 third-party community sponsors,” the statement continues. “That coalition includes a wide range of education, civic, religious, and service organizations.”
The Un-Fair campaign’s website states that the initiative was started in 2011 by the Duluth YWCA and a local advertising company, and has since grown to include a number of churches and community groups, the NAACP, and Lake Superior College as partners. Although the University of Minnesota-Duluth dropped their support of the campaign last summer, also calling the ads “divisive,” its organizers maintain that the ads are fulfilling a necessary task.
“We swim in a sea of whiteness — it’s the norm,” said campaign organizer Ellen O’Neill. ”If we’re white, we don’t have to think about it, we don’t see it. So the first step is getting white people to see it.”