University of Colorado tries to fight racism with racism

BOULDER, Colo. -- A new program at the University of Colorado is spreading racist language on campus -- on purpose. The goal is to make it disappear.

"We want students to be uncomfortable," said senior Judewon Kebede, who helped create signs posted on campus attacking people on race, religion and sexual identity.

One reads: "Your mom must be the janitor 'cause that's the only job for dirty Mexicans." Another assumes an Arab student must be a suicide bomber.

Provocative signs featuring racist, bigoted and offensive language are appearing on the University of Colorado's Boulder campus in an effort to start a conversation about hate speech. CBS News

"I think 'Go back to Africa' hit me hardest because that relates directly to my identity," Kebede said. "I've been uncomfortable being told that."

The 500 signs are intentionally offensive and based on real campus incidents. They're approved and paid for by the university, where 21 percent of the student population is minority.

"People need to see the ugliness of it and confront it directly before we can change," said Assistant Vice Chancellor Bronson Hilliard.

But many of the signs have been torn down. The approach, like the posters, offends university employee Brian Shimamoto.

"They wanted people to stand up and say, 'Whoa, what is this about?' And they got that reaction," Shimamoto said. "The problem is the people they're trying to help, some of us felt re-victimized all over again."

According to Kebede, progress sometimes involves pain.

"We are telling you, 'This is not OK, these narratives that people have been told are not OK,'" Kebede said.

A clear sign that the campus is walking on a new path to inclusion.