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It's OK to be white

An "It's OK to be white" sticker

It's okay to be white[1] or It's OK to be white (IOTBW) is a slogan based on a poster campaign organized on the American imageboard 4chan's board /pol/ in 2017, as a proof of concept that a "harmless message" would cause a media backlash.[2][3] Posters and stickers containing the sentence "It's okay to be white" were placed in streets in the United States as well as on campuses in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.[1][3] The slogan was spread by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and racist groups including neo-Nazis and white supremacists.[4]

Background

The suggestion for the use of posters with the saying originated on the message board /pol/ of 4chan, with the intent of provoking reactions. The saying was later spread by neo-Nazi groups and politically organized racists, including former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and The Daily Stormer.[4] A report by the ADL states that the phrase itself has a history within the white supremacist movement going back to 2001 when it was used as the title of a song by a white power music group called Aggressive Force as well as fliers with the phrase being spotted in 2005 and the slogan being used by a member of the United Klans of America.[1]

Reaction

Discarded "It's okay to be white" cards after a Patriot Prayer protest in Portland, Oregon

Many of the flyers were torn down, and some accused the posters of being covertly racist[4][5] and white nationalist,[6] while others, like Jeff Guillory, executive director of Washington State University's Office of Equity and Diversity, argued that it was "a nonthreatening statement".[7]

Academia

The University of Regina declared the posters "divisive".[8][9] University President Vianne Timmons said: "Simply put, these signs have no place at our university."[10]

A spokesman for a Waterloo Region District School Board commented: "Our schools are safe spaces. We want to see them be safe for all of our children, so to see this kind of thing emerge is a worry."[11]

After the signs were found at Washington State University, Phil Weiler, Vice President of University Communications, said: "one could reasonably believe the intention of the signs is to set a sense of fear and intimidation on campus".[12] Executive director of Washington State University's Office of Equity and Diversity responded to the posters by saying: "In my mind, it's a nonthreatening statement", further stating: "Sure, it's OK to be white. It's OK to be African-American. It's OK to be Latino. It's OK to be gay."[7]

The University of Utah said: "If, indeed, these tactics are meant to silence our work in diversity and inclusion, please know we shall not be deterred."[13] Concordia College said that their President was planning a meeting where students could "discuss the matter".[14]

Police were contacted regarding the flyers being posted at University of California, Berkeley. A police department spokesperson said "the signs did not constitute a hate crime because they did not target a specific race and because no criminal act was committed".[15][16]

In November 2017, Lucian Wintrich attempted to give a speech titled "It's OK To Be White" at University of Connecticut as an invited speaker of the school's Republican club.[17][18] The speech was protested and came to an end when a protester, employed as the director of career services at Quinebaug Valley Community College,[19] grabbed Wintrich's speech papers from the podium and Wintrich grabbed her, resulting in breach of peace charges against Wintrich.[20][21] In December 2017, the charges against Wintrich were dropped, and the woman who took the papers was charged with attempted sixth-degree larceny and disorderly conduct. She stated through her attorney she took Wintrich's speech as a form of protest, describing Wintrich's "It's OK To Be White" speech as "hateful language".[22][19]

Media

While some media sources reacted in the way the original authors on 4chan had expected,[23] others like TheBlaze described the campaign as trolling, or a prank.[24]

Tucker Carlson on Fox News defended the campaign in a segment entitled "High school Fliers Create Shock and Horror". Carlson asked: "What’s the correct position? That it’s not okay to be white?",[25] but Newsweek writer Michael Hayden said Carlson was helping to spread neo-Nazi propaganda by defending the posters, saying the slogan is being promoted by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.[4] Writing for The Washington Post, Janell Ross commented on the poster campaign saying: "the white victim construct is one that experts say, not so long ago, only had traction in avowed white supremacists, segregationists and neo-Nazi circles. But today, it animates open and anonymous public discussions of race and shapes the nation’s politics."[3] The Root compared it with the children's book It's Okay To Be Different and said, "but white folks have taken that beautiful sentiment and distorted it to suit their infinite need to center themselves".[26]

The online magazine Jacobite argued that the goal of the meme was to trick certain political progressives into attacking an "anodyne" message and thus elicit a "second-order reaction" from outsiders perplexed by the idea that the concept of being white is somehow unacceptable, instead of ignoring the message. The writer claims that the meme attempts to exploit its progressive opponents psychologically.[27]

The Guardian columnist Jason Wilson argued that "It's OK To Be White" was devised by white supremacists in order to stoke overreaction from the left, sow confusion, embed a racist agenda in the mainstream media, and ultimately invite a backlash against anti-racist activism.[28]

In other media

According to ThinkProgress, T-shirts with the slogan were put on sale at Shopify by Milo Yiannopoulos.[29]

In May 2019, New Zealand auction site Trade Me removed the sale of "It's okay to be white" t-shirts sold by manufacturer VJM Publishing amid public backlash.[30] The controversy was widely reported worldwide and was only a couple of months after the white supremacist Christchurch mosque shootings.[31] In wake of Trade Me banning the shirt, the seller moved to another New Zealand online marketplace, AllGoods.[32]

Australian parliament motion

On October 15, 2018, right-wing politician Pauline Hanson proposed an "It's OK to be white" motion in the Australian Senate intended to acknowledge the "deplorable rise of anti-white racism and attacks on Western civilization".[33] It was supported by most senators from the governing Liberal-National Coalition, but was defeated 31–28 by opponents who called it a racist slogan from the white supremacist movement.[34][35] The following day, the motion was "recommitted", and this time rejected unanimously by senators in attendance, with its initial supporters in the Liberal-National Coalition saying they had voted for it due to an administrative error (One Nation did not attend the recommital vote).[36]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "From 4Chan, Another Trolling Campaign Emerges". Anti-Defamation League. November 6, 2017. Archived from the original on June 20, 2019.
  2. ^ McGladrey, Dustin (November 1, 2017). ""It's Okay To Be White" Was A Planned Hate Crime From 4chan Internet Trolls". CFWE-FM. Aboriginal Multi-Media Society. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Ross, Janell (November 3, 2017). "'It's okay to be white' signs and stickers appear on campuses and streets across the country". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 1, 2018. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Hayden, Michael Edison (November 19, 2017). "The 'It's Okay to Be White' meme was backed by neo-Nazis and David Duke". Newsweek. Archived from the original on March 31, 2018.
  5. ^ Lewis, Jack (November 6, 2017). "'It's okay to be white' posters are covertly racist". The Diamondback. Archived from the original on February 5, 2019.
  6. ^ Hawkman, Andrea M. (July 2019). ""Let's try and grapple all of this": A snapshot of racial identity development and racial pedagogical decision making in an elective social studies course". The Journal of Social Studies Research. 43 (3): 215–228. doi:10.1016/j.jssr.2018.02.005. Flyers and posts featuring text like, "It's okay to be white" have appeared across high schools, college campuses, and social media platforms as it has now become okay to display feelings of white nationalism in public spheres
  7. ^ a b Nadauld, Taylor (November 30, 2017). "'It's okay to be white' posters spark mixed responses". Moscow-Pullman Daily News . Archived from the original on January 20, 2018 – via The Spokesman-Review.
  8. ^ "'It's OK To Be White' posters too 'divisive' for Regina University, could be considered vandalism". Toronto Sun. The Canadian Press. November 23, 2017. Archived from the original on July 6, 2018.
  9. ^ "University of Regina is removing It's OKAY To Be White posters from campus". National Post. The Canadian Press. November 23, 2017.
  10. ^ "'It's okay to be white' posters pop up at U of R; security investigating". CBC News. November 23, 2017. Archived from the original on December 6, 2017.
  11. ^ "'It's okay to be white' signs posted outside schools". CTV News. November 6, 2017. Archived from the original on November 26, 2018. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  12. ^ KREM Staff (November 30, 2017). "'It's ok to be white' signs found on WSU campus". KREM-TV. Archived from the original on November 26, 2018. Retrieved December 1, 2017 – via KING 5 News.
  13. ^ "US: University fights back against 'It's OK To Be White' posters on campus". November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  14. ^ "'It's OK to be white' signs put up at Concordia College in Moorhead". Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Forum News Service. November 4, 2017. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  15. ^ Richardson, Bradford (November 10, 2017). "'It's OK to be white' campaign rankles higher education". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on August 6, 2019. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  16. ^ Upwelling, Elise (November 7, 2017). "'It's Okay to be White' posters found at UC Berkeley". The Daily Californian. Archived from the original on May 18, 2018. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  17. ^ Betz, Bradford (November 29, 2017). "Conservative boy wonder Lucian Wintrich arrested at UConn speech titled, 'It's OK to be White'". Fox News. Archived from the original on August 12, 2019. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  18. ^ "Conservative speaker arrested after alleged altercation at speech titled "It Is OK To Be White"". CBS News. November 29, 2017. Archived from the original on November 29, 2017. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  19. ^ a b "US woman charged for stealing 'OK to be white' speech". BBC News. December 11, 2011. Archived from the original on March 19, 2018. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  20. ^ Colli, George (November 29, 2017). "Conservative speaker arrested at UConn blames university security, protesters". News 8. Archived from the original on October 24, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  21. ^ Stevens, Matt; Sedacca, Matthew (November 29, 2017). "Gateway Pundit Correspondent Arrested During Speech at UConn". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 30, 2017. Retrieved October 24, 2019.
  22. ^ Rondinone, Nicholas (December 11, 2017). "Quinebaug College Adviser Charged After Lucian Wintrich's UConn Event". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on April 16, 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  23. ^ Sandy, Eric (November 1, 2017). "4chan Troll Movement Hits Rocky River with 'It's OK To Be White' Signs". Cleveland Scene. Archived from the original on June 20, 2019. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  24. ^ Garcia, Carlos (November 4, 2017). "Maryland High School investigating flyers with simple 5-word message about white people". TheBlaze. Archived from the original on April 28, 2018. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  25. ^ Media Matters Staff (November 3, 2017). "Tucker Carlson defends 4chan's "it's okay to be white" campaign". Media Matters for America. Archived from the original on October 24, 2019. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  26. ^ Helm, Angela (November 5, 2017). "'It's Okay to Be White' Signs Papered All Over the Country Because Everyone Knows White People Are Oppressed". The Root. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  27. ^ Duffy, Nathan (November 17, 2017). "The Asymmetric Meme Warfare of "It's OK to be White"". Jacobite. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  28. ^ Wilson, Jason (October 16, 2018). "'It's OK to be white' is not a joke, it's careless politicians helping the far right". The Guardian. Archived from the original on February 15, 2019. Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  29. ^ Michel, Casey (November 7, 2017). "Shopify is helping monetize the latest white nationalist meme". ThinkProgress. Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  30. ^ Ritschel, Chelsea (May 31, 2019). "Online store removed controversial 'It's okay to be white' t-shirt". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 31, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  31. ^ Palmer, Scott (May 28, 2019). "Trade Me pulls 'It's Okay To Be White' T-shirts after public pressure". Newshub. Archived from the original on May 28, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  32. ^ Callahan, Chrissy (June 1, 2019). "New Zealand website pulls controversial T-shirt amid backlash". Today. Archived from the original on June 11, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  33. ^ Bourke, Latika (October 15, 2018). "Coalition backs Pauline Hanson's 'It's OK to be white' motion". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on October 24, 2019. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  34. ^ "Pauline Hanson says 'it's OK to be white'". SBS News. Australian Associated Press. October 15, 2018. Archived from the original on October 17, 2018. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  35. ^ Karp, Paul (October 15, 2018). "'OK to be white': Australian government senators condemn 'anti-white racism'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 17, 2019. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  36. ^ "Australian senators say error led to backing far-right motion saying 'it's OK to be white'". The Guardian. October 16, 2018. Archived from the original on May 1, 2019. Retrieved October 16, 2018.

External links