One of the stated goals of Duluth’s billboard campaign is to create a community dialogue. In that regard, it got more than it bargained for.

Hundreds of the city’s white residents have complained that the campaign’s kick-off images and messages are offensive. The campaign, they say, blames all racism on whites and implies that white people aren’t smart enough to recognize racism. Meanwhile, the campaign’s defenders and sponsors, including Mayor Don Ness, say they’ve received dozens of hateful messages and e-mails from all over the world, as news of the campaign hit websites that cater to white supremacists and other racists. One message to Ness: “Die, scum, die.”

Ness said Duluth already showed it can have uncomfortable discussions about race relations. Several years ago, despite decades of silence and initial resistance from some city leaders, Duluthians placed a memorial on the downtown street corner where a white mob lynched three black circus workers in 1920, what many have called the darkest moment in the city’s history.

Billboard intended to open racism dialog

A billboard in Duluth MN was intended to open community dialog about racism