Univ. of Wisconsin Defends Controversial 'White Privilege' Campaign

The University of Wisconsin Duluth-Superior says it is not backing down from its involvement in a controversial diversity campaign featuring white models with “Society was set up for us” and “Is white skin really fair skin?” and other racially charged sayings scrawled on their faces.

The Duluth-Superior community’s Un-Fair campaign, whose tag phrase is “It’s hard to see racism when you’re white,” was launched in 2012 by the Duluth YWCA and now boasts 16 third-party community sponsors, including the University of Wisconsin.   

But even as original partners like the University of Minnesota have cut ties with the campaign, calling it “divisive” and “alienating,” the University of Wisconsin says it is standing strong.

“UW-Superior understood and expressed serious concern about the nature of the creative materials,” said the school last week in a statement. “However, rather than abandon a well-intentioned effort, UW-Superior chose to continue working with the other community partners to help refocus the campaign's future direction.”

On its website, the Un-Fair campaign points out that Duluth School District data show wide disparities between racial groups in graduation rates, poverty, and life expectancy. “How can we accept such inequality?” the website asks. The solution, says the group, is to “learn how historically white privilege has benefited you and other white people” so one can “accept that you have unearned privilege and advantages.” 

The ad campaign also features a host of injustices scrawled across the faces of white models, including:  “We’re lucky we don’t get stared at every single time we walk into a room” and “We’re lucky that’s it’s easier to get a job, a bank loan, and approval in general.”

The University of Wisconsin Duluth-Superior says the open campus dialogues it has hosted for faculty, staff members, and students have been “productive” and “well-received” and “was proud to host the diversity dialogues that took place throughout campus last year.”


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