Un-Fair Campaign’s partner UMD calls new video campaign ‘divisive’A new video released as part of the Un-Fair Campaign has been called “divisive” by one of the campaign partners: the University of Minnesota Duluth.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
A new video released as part of the Un-Fair Campaign has been called “divisive” by one of the campaign partners: the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Although the prevailing message, “It’s hard to see racism when you’re white,” is the same point the campaign has been making since January, it’s packaged differently, into a sharable video on the campaign’s website and Facebook page. The new video has gone viral, said Patrice Bradley, CEO of Swim Creative, the advertising agency that executed the campaign.
The video (below) depicts white people with phrases such as “we’re privileged people see us, not a color” written on their faces. One person says, “We’re privileged because society was set up for us and our silence keeps it in place.”
The campaign’s message has spread further, she said, and it’s been picked up by some people who don’t understand the conversation. Several complained to the University of Minnesota and UMD after reading inaccurate reports that claimed UMD paid for the campaign and produced the video, said UMD Chancellor Lynn Black. UMD responded to those claims with a statement both correcting misinformation and saying the new public service announcement has alienated many.
“A wide range of people have responded much more emotionally, viscerally, to the images of the PSA than they did even to the billboards earlier,” Black said, including faculty, staff and students at UMD, many who have had concerns since the first billboards went up in January when the campaign began.
UMD is one of 18 sponsors of the campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the concept of white privilege, provide help for understanding and action and help create conversations that result in change. Other partners include the city of Duluth, Community Action Duluth, the University of Wisconsin-Superior, the YWCA, Central Labor Body and Lake Superior College. The controversial campaign also resulted in major backlash this winter when billboards and posters first went up.
UMD is not withdrawing from the partnership, Black said.
“We’re still very much committed to the goals of the campaign and to the foundation the campaign is built on,” he said. “We do not support these PSAs in large part because instead of encouraging dialogue, it seems like they have become more divisive.”
He said UMD will evaluate its position with the campaign as it moves forward. Black noted UMD was unaware of the content of the new material until it was made public, and said it would like to see future campaign materials before they are released.
Partners had an opportunity in April to see the new public service announcement, said Ellen O’Neill, executive director of the Duluth YWCA, speaking on behalf of the Un-Fair Campaign.
She said the video as released had no weblinks to the campaign partners.
“Somebody outside the campaign took the PSA, linked additional information specifically focused on UMD and released that,” she said in a statement. “UMD was unfairly targeted and the campaign PSA was inappropriately used to separate out and target one of the 18 partners.”
She said it is understood by the Un-Fair Campaign that UMD doesn’t support the message, but supports the goals of the campaign.
“We deeply regret that the campaign’s PSA was misused to target them,” O’Neill said.
Bradley said she wished it were people in Duluth having this conversation rather than those outside the market the campaign is focused on.
“It’s a really touchy subject,” she said. “Backlashes are going to happen. We as a community need to say we are going to stand behind this and make change.”
The statement released by the University of Minnesota notes Duluth’s long and difficult history of challenges regarding racial equity and justice “that we have not entirely overcome,” citing a 2010 incident at UMD involving racial epithets aimed at a black student written publicly on Facebook by white students.
“Other people of color on campus shared similar concerns and experiences,” the statement says. “Such concerns led to an on-campus summit that led to the formulation of our Campus Change process that continues today.”
O’Neill said the campaign will work with all of the partners in ways that respect their goals and those of the campaign.