Un-Fair Campaign’s anti-racism approach likely backfires and increases discrimination, according to research


The Un-Fair Campaign has not yet presented any research indicating that their anti-racism approach actually reduces racism. The report they recently came out with on April 8th, 2013 provided numbers including “Facebook likes” and “attendance at community events,” but nothing indicating that their campaign has actually reduced racism and racial disparities in the Duluth community, or that it is effectively doing so.

We, on the other hand, are presenting research that their approach actually increases bias and discrimination, therefore having the opposite, unintended effect.

A recent Dutch study found that anti-racism instruction in schools actually increases discrimination:

“Children who are given anti-racism lessons in school are more likely to be intolerant outside the classroom, a major study found yesterday.

“It said accusing white pupils of racism causes animosity, and discussing sensitive ethnic concerns such as honour killings paints minority group children in a bad light.

“But it found that ‘when more attention in class is being paid to the multicultural society, the liberalising effect of positive contact in class on youngsters’ xenophobic attitude decreases’.” (Our campaign has emphasized celebrating diversity which has a more positive effect.)

Another study in 2011 found that anti-racism campaigns increase bias:

“Touting the benefits of tolerance, as opposed to trying to shame people for their prejudices, can be more effective in reducing racism, suggests a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto.

“Aggressive anti-racism campaigns might actually increase bias toward other groups, while messages emphasizing the personal stake one has in a more open-minded society can be most effective, says the paper, which will appear in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.”

(The Psychological Science abstract can be viewed here.)

Clearly, anti-racism efforts that are aggressive and targeted only to white people, such as the Un-Fair Campaign, have not proven successful in similar cases around the world, and if anything, have resulted in the opposite, unintended effect.

Our recommendation for an anti-racism campaign in Duluth would consider these findings and be modeled after an evidence-based campaign such as one called “All Together Now” in Australia. From their website: “Our vision is for an Australia that embraces cultural diversity and is free from racism. We seek to achieve this by creating innovative, evidence-based and effective social marketing that is positive, provocative and courageous.” (emphasis ours)

This research has been shared with the Un-Fair Campaign and their supporters, but it has repeatedly been dismissed. The responses have diverted attention from the studies to highlight their judgments about the opposition; namely, that those who oppose the campaign are “uncomfortable” and just want the “discomfort,” and therefore the campaign, to just “go away.” This is a generic response that avoids the fair and analytical perspective of their critics. In other words, the root of the opposition’s rejection of the Un-Fair Campaign is not “emotional” but reasonable, as the evidence we have found does not support their approach and deserves addressing.

Though the research is from outside the U.S., it is valid and relevant, and needs to be considered as it is the only applicable research conducted on the subject of anti-racism efforts and their results.

The Un-Fair Campaign continues to be controversial despite “toning down” their efforts since it began. Their message that the white dominant culture is inherently racist and all white people need to acknowledge and address this is an example of an aggressive anti-racist approach that is likely to backfire and result in increased discrimination and bias.

The Un-Fair Campaign has not produced any statistical evidence proving that their efforts reduce racist attitudes and do not increase them, and has ignored the research we have provided. Therefore we will continue to oppose this campaign.

For more information, please visit our Learn page.

One comment

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