Campaign against white privilege prompts conversation and controversy

August 3, 2012

“Is white skin really fair skin?”

That’s one of the questions the Un-Fair Campaign is posing in posters around Duluth, Minnesota.  The campaign started last year, and includes billboards that read: “It’s hard to see racism when you’re white.”

The idea is to spread awareness about white privilege and get people talking about racism in a city that’s 90 percent white, but some people think the campaign itself is unfair.

Phil Pierson is one of those people. He created the facebook page, “Stop Racist Unfair Campaign,” which as of Friday morning had 680 members. On it, he writes:

All summer, WBEZ and vocalo will be talking about race—out loud, and on the air, in frank conversations and stories, and in lively public events. We’re asking what it would sound like if people said what they really think and feel about race and ethnicity. What if they really talked about how it shapes them, their lives, and attitudes?  What would we hear?

“We believe that you simply can not open a discussion on racism and hope to see it move in a positive direction when you raise the topic by stereotyping an entire race. It will be perceived as biased and accusatory. Instead of spreading love and togetherness, it spreads animosity and hate, teaches a new generation to point fingers and focus on the color of our skin instead of the idea that we're all human, and we're all in this together.”

Friday on Afternoon Shift, we continue our series, Race: Out Loud by finding out what impact the Un-Fair Campaign has had in Duluth.  Duluth News Tribune editor Robin Washington and freelance journalist/journalism professor Jesse Hardman stop by to explain how the campaign has played out in the 86,000 person city to our north. (To hear Hardman talk with Minnesota hip hop artist Brother Ali about white priveledge, click here.)

But wait, that’s not all! Hour one of Friday’s Afternoon Shift features two more conversations exploring race.  We check in with New York University sociology professor Ann Morning to learn about the social construction of race.  What is “whiteness,” and how have the ways in which we define race changed over time? Professor Morning explains.  

Then--How integrated would you like your neighborhood to be?  It turns out that different races answer this question differently. For example, research indicates that African Americans prefer more integrated neighborhoods than white people.

Maria Krysan has studied the residential preference patterns and the attitudes that influence them. The University of Illinois at Chicago professor gives us an overview of what she’s found out.  

Plus, we’ll top off the hour by checking in with Rob Breymaier, executive director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center. For the past 40 years, the center has tried to match renters and landlords in a way that promotes integrated neighborhoods.