Our view: Racism campaign has opportunity to educateThe post on Duluth Mayor Don Ness’ Facebook page Sunday evening was shocking and frightening — and a call to action in more ways than one.
The post on Duluth Mayor Don Ness’ Facebook page Sunday evening was shocking and frightening — and a call to action in more ways than one.
“White supremacists from all over the world are sending me threats and some of the most hateful messages I’ve ever read,” the mayor wrote five days after helping launch an anti-racism project called the Un-Fair Campaign; he did so at a news conference, apparently making himself a face of the movement — and a target for its backlash.
“The racism I’ve seen this weekend is all the proof I need that we (need) good people to step up,” Ness continued in a post that was “liked” nearly 500 times in less than a day, that received more than 150 comments and that was reposted on countless walls.
Not exactly viral, but certainly not invisible.
“No, the (Un-Fair Campaign) is not calling all white people racists,” Ness wrote. “It’s saying white folk need to be part of the solution. And I’m not backing down from that. Will you join me?”
So there was a call to action from the mayor. And by early Monday afternoon, his smiling mug was popping up on the Facebook walls of Duluthians from across the city accompanied by the words, “I got your back, Don. Stand against racism and intimidation.” The graphic included the Un-Fair Campaign’s website.
The website contains tons of information about the campaign’s 15 partners, about racist laws, about “seeing” racism, about white privilege and more.
But is the campaign doing enough, in this moment, to seize another call to action, that to educate? Much of Duluth is paying attention — right now. Many are offended by billboards reading, “It’s hard to see racism when you’re white.” Others are curious, like gawkers at a car wreck, about people who are offended and why they’re so on the defensive.
One goal of the Un-Fair Campaign was to engage the community. That’s been accomplished. Another goal was to educate. Doing so while the community is engaged seems the opportune time.
“We will be meeting with our partners, and we’ll be talking about how we want to address that,” a member of the campaign — who asked not to be identified because “it’s dangerous” — told the News Tribune Opinion page Monday. A meeting should take place this week, she said.
The sooner the better.
“We are not calling individual people racist. That is not the intent of the campaign,” the woman said, speaking on behalf of the campaign. “What we’re saying is we live in a monoculture where whiteness is the norm, and if you fit that norm then you have advantages. All the campaign is doing is … asking people to look at the advantages they get by fitting the norm.”
The campaign has received about 150 e-mails, a third of which have been supportive. The other 100 or so messages have been from white people who think they’re being called racists.
“Please go to the website and read,” the campaign spokeswoman urged. “A lot of people are responding just to the billboards. We want them to please go to the website and read, to spend some time on there. There (are) hours and hours of information there.”
Before the campaign was launched one of its most active members told the News Tribune that the point was to “open a dialogue (and) to eliminate racism … as a community.” That dialogue is open. We can all be part of the necessary community conversation that’s following. And we can all accept personal responsibility for making sure it remains civil and proves productive.