A Pennsylvania billboard has sparked an outcry and accusations of racism — but the man who put it up insists that he’s simply trying to strike up a “conversation” about race.
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As Pittsburgh’s WPXI reports, the controversial digital billboard stands on Route 422 outside Worthington, Pa. Its changing screen features multiple messages. One reads “whites have rights,” while another features a photo of actor Jussie Smollett, who is being investigated for an alleged hate crime hoax.
“Jussie Smollett hangs himself! Sets ‘race’ relations back 100 years,” it reads.
A third message features images of various politicians — including Rep. John Lewis and Rep. Maxine Waters — and accuses them of being “black racists.”
John Placek, who owns the billboard, denied any racist intentions.
“Racism is misunderstood in America and I want to have the conversation,” he told WPXI. “We need to get over: I’m black. You’re white. You’re Hispanic. Who cares? I don’t care about that. I do care about how you act and how you stand for my flag, our flag.
“We gotta get people talking,” he continued. “We gotta get them excited. And that’s what I’ve done. The board was never meant to hurt anybody. I would never do that. I’m a patriot. I’m an American. Period.”
But critics say his messages are inflammatory.
“I don’t see it as thought-provoking,” Michael Allshouse, who called the billboard “racist,” told WPXI. “I don’t see it as instigating thoughtful discussion as much as it is provoking and agitating.”
One problem with real racists is that they don’t actually know what racism is. They think it’s simple bigotry but it’s much deeper. It’s systemic. When black people control the means of production and all the systems then maybe they could be racist…. https://t.co/NFf2RjoRKw
— Joe Lovece (@HoohahComics) March 6, 2019
“The billboard was never meant to hurt anybody….I’m a patriot…” said by the racist white idiot that put this billboard up. Imagine being this ignorant. ?
Pennsylvania billboard calls civil rights hero John Lewis a ‘Black racist’ https://t.co/kpG91BYezM via rawstory
— Jo’el #RESIST (@joelliberal) March 6, 2019
Sorry don’t believe that all of Pennsylvania believes, that just some idiots that paid for a billboard. John Lewis is a hero that has been loyal to what america stands for WE MUST PROTECT OUR CONSTITUTION https://t.co/A7PeDTEiEn
— jude baker a white woman (@maxxsings6464) March 6, 2019