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Tuesday, September 22, 1998 Published at 00:05 GMT 01:05 UK


Equality campaign is 'racist'

The CRE refused to remove the posters that have attracted complaints

More posters are being unveiled by the Commission for Racial Equality as part of an advertising campaign that has been condemned as racist and offensive.

The CRE says the campaign is intended to test attitudes to racial stereotyping, but the Advertising Standards Authority has asked for three posters already on display to be removed.

Members of the public had complained that the posters, which do not say they are part of an awareness campaign, were racist.

The CRE has refused to remove the posters, and is to press ahead with the next phase of campaign.

[ image: Ads were supposed to raise awareness of racism]
Ads were supposed to raise awareness of racism
This will involve posters for products which imply black people are rapists, orang-utans and worthy of oppression.

The initial posters will be followed up with the message, "What was worse? This ad or your failure to complain?"

The fact that people have complained has led to ASA officers investigating whether the posters breach the code of conduct rules of taste, decency and social responsibility.

A spokesman for the CRE said the early posters were "part of a public information campaign and this is just the opening shot".

"It is extremely unlikely that people who have seen these initial posters do not then see the follow-up."

One poster, seemingly for a rape alarm, shows a white woman sitting on a bus, a black man in the foreground and the slogan "Because it's a jungle out there".

[ image: Ads are said to play on perceived racial stereotypes]
Ads are said to play on perceived racial stereotypes
Another for a recruitment consultant shows a white man climbing on a ladder and standing on the hand of a black man beneath him, with the caption, "Dominate the Race."

The third for sportswear shows a black man jumping up to a basketball hoop and an orang-utan reaching for a branch in the same pose, headlined, "Born to be agile".

Milena Buyum, of the National Assembly Against Racism, said the campaign was dangerous.

"The problem is people may see the teaser and take it at face value because there is nothing to say it is produced by the CRE.

"Then, if they do not see the follow-up, it simply has the effect of reinforcing racial stereotypes, which I'm sure is what the CRE is trying to contradict."

'Warped reasoning'

Labour MP Keith Vaz is understood to be raising the matter with the CRE's Chairman, Sir Herman Ouseley.

And Tory MP Sir Teddy Taylor has called on Home Secretary, Jack Straw to close down the Commission and certainly withdraw all public funding.

Sir Teddy Taylor, MP for Southend East and Rochford, said: "They have no right to put forward posters which are insulting to racial minorites, whatever their warped reasoning is for doing this."

Brett Gosper, of the advertising agency which devised the campaign, said the aim was to make people question their own values on racism.

"Advertising in the past had focused on 'extreme' acts of racism, the impact of which was to make people say 'I'm not like that, I wouldn't do that, I wouldn't throw bricks through windows and so on,'" he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

'Part of wider campaign'

"We call those people a passive majority."

He said that if a racist joke was delivered among such people in a group, they would not protest: "They will perhaps laugh and move on.

"The statement in this campaign is: condone or condemn, there is no in-between."

The CRE said later that the number of complaints had been "disappointing".

The second series of posters would be in place for a week.

A statement describing the aims of the campaign noted: "The unique advertising campaign is designed to generate complaints and condemnation and also acts as a snapshot of public reaction to racism.

"But the number of complaints from the general public has been disappointing."

The Commission's chairman, Sir Herman Ouseley, added: "The campaign is designed to force people into considering their own personal attitude to racism and is specifically intended to provoke a reaction - preferably complaint or condemnation.

"These posters are just the first part of a wider campaign to challenge passivity in the face of racism. We are calling for formal public education programmes to tackle racism in this country."

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