Picture this- you’re driving peacefully on the highway, then from the corner of your eye, you spot something that makes you cringe like no other. If you’re from Yikama, Washington, Latinx had the same reaction seeing marijuana billboard targeted to them.
On Tuesday, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Mike Faulk tweeted a picture of a problematic billboard that caught his eye while cruising through the city. His caption read, “This anti-marijuana billboard in Yakima was paid for by the WA Department of Health. Some find it, well, offensive.”
This anti-marijuana billboard in Yakima was paid for by the WA Department of Health. Some find it, well, offensive. pic.twitter.com/NbnoJ5Cw7f
— Mike Faulk (@Mike_Faulk) July 25, 2017
The actual message on the billboard says, “We don’t need pot to have fun. We’re Hispanics…we’re cool by default.” To say it was offensive, for many, was an understatement. Faulk’s tweet went viral, and it was clear that the response was overwhelmingly in favor of having the billboard removed altogether. Many commentators found the ad racist, messy or simply lame. Teen journalist Kate Pizano said, ““I understand that it’s targeted toward Latino youth, but at the same time, I feel like it’s implying that we’re the only ones who smoke weed.”
The billboard was an initiative taken to try and reduce the number of teen smokers. According to one of a department's spokespeople, the initial testing for the ad received zero negative feedback, which encouraged them to continue developing the project. The Department confirmed to Vox that they “worked to make sure the messages were extensively tested within the Hispanic community in the Yakima Valle. […] Actually, we were excited to learn youth found this message empowering and most felt a sense of heightened pride in their Hispanic heritage.”
Our prevention billboard has offended some & we’re sorry. We’re taking steps to remove it as soon as possible. https://t.co/ZFiEhd4vab
— WA Dept. of Health (@WADeptHealth) July 25, 2017
The Department of Health responded to the outcry on Twitter with, “Our prevention billboard has offended some & we’re sorry. We’re taking steps to remove it as soon as possible.” The billboard has been scheduled to be removed today.