An anti-racism billboard along Saskatoon’s Circle Drive is being defended by the city after complaints on social media.
The billboard, part of the city’s “I am the bridge” anti-racism campaign, is located just north of 33rd Street and faces drivers travelling north on Circle Drive.
It shows a white man with the accompanying text, “I have to acknowledge my own privilege and racist attitudes.”
The billboard has sparked accusations the city is funding a divisive campaign, aimed at calling white people racist.
Community Development director Lynne Lacroix responded Tuesday, saying the campaign wasn’t designed to offend.
“It does no good for us to divide the community,” she said. “It’s about the importance of an inclusive community, of bringing community together.”
She emphasized the quote wasn’t scripted by the city, but came from the man depicted on the billboard as part of a video he submitted to the campaign.
The man, called Jim in the video, starts off describing his circumstances in the brief testimonial.
“I am a white, heterosexual, able-bodied male,” he said. “I am part of the most privileged demographic in history.”
His quote featured on the billboard follows shortly after. Lacroix told reporters the context of Jim’s video helps in terms of understanding the quote.
“It’s factual,” she said, noting academic studies available on the Saskatoon city website demonstrating racism’s impact. “So it shouldn’t be divisive.”
Dozens of videos
She added the billboard has been up since June 19, along with three others around the city.
There are also eight bus shelter ads, eight ads on the backs of buses and social media promotions showing quotes from the video campaign.
The city received around 35 videos as part of the “I am the bridge” initiative over the course of 2016, leading to this summer’s campaign.
“When we started to go down this road we wanted hundreds of videos,” Lacroix said. “People are afraid to talk about racism, that’s what we found out.”
The ads will be active through July 16, costing a total of $14,100 in the 2017 budget.
Lacroix said they’re taking feedback from the public seriously, but the city has received just as much support for the project as they have opposition.
“We were hoping there would be great conversation in the community,” she said. “And it’s done exactly that.”