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Ad campaign focuses on race, raises debate and leaves some offended

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A campaign directed only to white people is by definition racist. – Phil Pierson

The goal of the ad campaign is to "raise awareness about white privilege" and promote a "systemic change towards racial justice," but some are calling the "Unfair Campaign" just that — unfair.

The campaign, which launched Tuesday in Duluth, Minn., features posters and videos of Caucasians discussing guilt for "privileges" that are tied to skin color.

"I am a white man," one of the ads says. "And you don't see my color before you see my face. You don't judge me before you know me. You don't fear me. You don't secretly hope that I stay out of your neighborhood. What you do is worse. You give me better jobs, better pay, better treatment and a better chance all because of the color of my skin — and you don't even know you're doing it."

"We don't experience the daily disadvantages — the looks, the fear, the hassles — that thrive in the unspoken world of white entitlement," another ad says.

"What do you mean we're lucky to be white?" a YouTube spot says. "It's not luck. It's privilege. We're privileged that people see us, not a color ... We're privileged because society was set up for us, and our silence keeps it in place."

Phil Pierson, a 31-year-old Duluth resident, told the Duluth News Tribune that the slogan — "It's hard to see racism when you're white" — and the campaign was offensive.

"The issue of racism is real, but it doesn't pertain only to whites," he said. "A campaign directed only to white people is by definition racist."

Ann Reyelts, also of Duluth, said the campaign's message was not being shared properly.

"To assume that it's hard for whites to understand racism is insulting to my intelligence," she said. "I get what they're trying to say, but I don't think that's the way to go about it."

Campusreform.org released information regarding the campaign, including documents from students at the University of Minnesota-Duluth sharing their unease with the school-sponsored campaign. One student wrote that the Unfair Campaign "is in fact UNFAIR."

"It may be drawing awareness to factors that we might otherwise not pay attention to, but it's creating a gap between people," the student wrote. "It's only making people more racist on both sides."

Although the campaign sports a bizarre tone and manner of delivery, there is some truth to the message, James Taranto wrote at The Wall Street Journal. Even so, he asked, what exactly is the campaign supposed to be accomplishing?

"First of all, the ad won't make white people conscious of their own race unless they are already predisposed to guilty racial feelings. They will be conscious instead of the ad's strangeness," Taranto wrote. "But suppose the ad did succeed in making white people conscious of their race — that is, of being different from nonwhites. That would aggravate, not ameliorate, the problem of minority racial self-consciousness."

A Manhattan Institute report released in January 2012 showed that an exodus of African-Americans from struggling industrial cities like Detroit has contributed to U.S. cities becoming more integrated now than at any time since 1910.