Friday, December 16, 2005

STOP RACIST BILLBOARD CAMPAIGN

Stop Racist Billboard Campaign

ADC

The Coalition for a Secure Driver's License is launching a new billboard campaign in New Mexico and North Carolina, which contains extremely negative and racist images of Arabs and Arab cultural symbols.

The billboards unfairly conflate the question of immigration and national security, and further enflame fears about Arabs and Arab Americans. In doing so, the Coalition for a Secure Driver's license misleadingly utilizes false stereotypes and racist rhetoric to push an anti-immigration agenda.

The ad depicts an individual whose face is covered by a Kufiya (the traditional male headdress in some Arab countries,) carrying a hand-grenade with what appears to be a blood smear and a driver's license. The billboard also features nonsensical Arabic letters that were simply lined up without forming any words. Additionally, there are two figures in the background wearing military fatigues, black masks, and green bandanas on their heads with what appear to be Arabic words. Superimposed on the images is a caption that reads "Don't License Terrorists, North Carolina!" To view the billboard click here.

The fear is that the imagery, which very blatantly depicts a stereotypical Arab man as a threat to national security, will incite further mistrust towards Arab Americans and Arabs. While the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) values fair and honest political debate, this billboard unfairly portrays Arabs and Arab cultural symbols as dangerous. The advertisement transgresses the boundaries of political discussion and instead relies on stereotypes and hatemongering to support its views.

ADC understands that billboard companies do not want to infringe on the first amendment rights of its advertisers. However, hate speech and images that perpetuate racism and false stereotypes are unlawful and should not be tolerated. Billboard companies also have a responsibility to their costumers not to display ads that are racially offensive, and which contribute to the worsening problem of racism and prejudice towards any ethnic group or minority, including Arabs, Muslims, South Asians, and those perceived to be.

It is worth noting that the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License has a history of negative ad campaigns and racial profiling. In the past, ADC has objected to a television ad, which seemingly depicted a stereotypical Middle Eastern man as a threat to national security.

ACTION REQUESTED:

ADC urges you to contact the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, North Carolina Governor Michael F. Easley, and New Mexico Governors Bill Richardson to express your dismay at the contents of the billboard, as well as past ad campaigns. For your convenience, ADC has prepared a letter that you may choose to send.

You may get in touch with the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License directly at:

1920 L Street, NW, Suite 210
Washington D.C. 20036

Tel: (202) 223 2386
Email: info@securelicense.org
Fax: (202) 835 9066

You may also contact North Carolina Governor Michael F. Easley at:

Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301

Tel: 1-800-662-7952 valid in North Carolina only
(919) 733 4240, (919) 733 5811
Email: governor.office@ncmail.net
Fax: (919) 715 3175 or (919) 733 2120

You may contact New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson directly at:

Office of the Governor
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Tel: (505) 476 2200
Email: becky.gear@state.nm.us
Fax: (505) 476 2226

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