Un-Fair Campaign marks one-year anniversary, seeks new directionIf you haven’t seen any billboards or posters for the Un-Fair Campaign lately, don’t be mistaken. The campaign is not over yet.
By: Tom Olsen, Duluth Budgeteer News
If you haven’t seen any billboards or posters for the Un-Fair Campaign lately, don’t be mistaken. The campaign is not over yet.
Just over a year after the public launch of the controversial Twin Ports anti-racism effort, campaign leaders are seeking public input for the next phase of the project through a series of forums this week.
“The whole campaign has been geared around being able to see racism and racial disparities and to understand what it’s about,” said organizer Lyn Clark Pegg, a member of Peace United Church of Christ, a partner in the campaign. “Now we need to develop more of a collective effort in addressing those disparities. We want to work towards solutions, and that’s a very complicated process.”
Forums will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Duluth on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Church of Restoration, Central Hillside Community Center and Pilgrim Congregational Church, respectively.
Campaign leaders will report on the progress of the campaign and accept public comment during the forums. Afterwards, representatives from the 18 partners in the campaign will meet to discuss plans moving forward.
“The program is only going to be as successful as the community makes it,” said Duncan Gregory, a program coordinator for Lutheran Social Services, another campaign partner. “Duluth wants to do something about racism in the community. Good people want to see positive change. We’re all about finding out what community wants to see.”
The campaign has not been without controversy in its first year. Posters and billboards bearing the slogan “It’s hard to see racism when you’re white” have led to some backlash, and one of the campaign partners, the University of Minnesota Duluth, pulled out of the campaign, calling it “divisive.”
But organizers see negative reactions as a positive sign.
“You can’t bring up a difficult topic without people getting upset,” Pegg said. “Change always brings about discomfort, fear and confusion. It’s an emotional situation. People feel differently about that. Some want the change to come, some don’t.”
Feeling that the campaign has achieved its first goal of raising awareness of racism and racial disparities in Duluth, the partners will next form “action teams” to address those issues.
There are five major problem areas that need to be tackled, Pegg said: education, employment, housing, health care and criminal justice.
“We’ve begun to build a base to sustain action teams, from all sectors,” she said. “We have public figures, the government sector, education sector and the business sector. Until we had people on board from all of these facets we couldn’t really change anything.
The organizers say they don’t have specific plans in place for implementing change, but that those plans will be developed through community feedback and action team meetings.
“This is an important conversation to have in order to make those changes,” said Ed Heisler, executive director of Men as Peacemakers, another campaign partner. “We’ve seen good numbers of people attending forums in the past, particularly around the beginning stages.”
The Un-Fair Campaign was first unveiled in January 2012, although the partners began meeting about six months prior to that. The initiative’s goal is to end racism by opening discussions on the issue in a city where the minority population is around only 10 percent.
The city has seen several high-profile racial incidents since that time, including an effigy of President Obama hanging from a billboard near the Miller Hill Mall on Election Day, as well as a video that was released showing two UMD students using slurs while wearing blackface.
Efforts to derail the campaign, including a Facebook group and a visit by the Supreme White Alliance white supremacy group, have left organizers mostly unfazed.
“Sometimes when things get controversial, people think that it’s negative,” Heisler said. “But it brings the conversation to the forefront and we have opportunities to go deeper with the discussion.”