An eye-catching billboard is causing controversy. Many believe it carries a racist message. The person responsible says that wasn't the intent; it's a political statement about free speech.
The billboard went up on Harrison's U.S. 62/65 bypass on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, several viewers had contacted the KY3 newsroom, concerned about the message.
The billboard reads "Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White," in plain black and yellow, no other information.
For many, the first impression was outrage.
"It really made me mad. It just kind of bothers me. Everything about the sign was screaming out racism, and that's something I've been trying to stand against for years," said David Stewart, a college student in Harrison.
With the Ku Klux Klan claiming Harrison as home, a racist image is something the community has been trying hard to fight, and with a task force on race relations, they believe Harrison is making strides.
"Then you drive through and you see something like this up, and it undercuts the huge amounts of effort and work the community has focused on in the last few years to really step away from that image," says Layne Ragsdale of the Harrison Task Force on Race Relations.
The local resident responsible for the sign released this statement through the sign company explaining their intent: "Often white people are called racist for opposing the President's policies. On the other hand a non-white person was never called racist for opposing President Bush's policies. There is a double-standard in this country regarding differences of opinion. Those differences of opinion do not make a person racist. The first amendment right to freedom of speech is for everyone. That is the point of the message."
The owner of Harrison Sign, who leased out the billboard, is a minority and says he does not believe the man is racist.
Ragsdale doesn't see a political statement in the words.
"I really don't. To me, it's very clear that it's the idea, you shouldn't speak against racist, that being racist is okay," Ragsdale says.
"Silence isn't going to help the cause. You have to stand for what you believe in, and I believe that the sign should be removed or something should be done about it," says Stewart.
Harrison Sign Company says the client leased the billboard on a one-year contract. The advertiser whose billboard was above the controversial one asked that his be relocated, and that was quickly done. Harrison Sign Company says someone else has now leased that space, saying they plan to leave it blank.