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It's OK to be white
Slogan based on a poster campaign organized on the American imageboard 4chan's board /pol/ in 2017
An "It's OK to be white" sticker
It's okay to be white or It's OK to be white (IOTBW) is a slogan based on a poster campaign organized on the American imageboard4chan's board /pol/ in 2017, as a proof of concept that a "harmless message" would cause a media backlash. 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. The slogan was spread by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and racist groups including neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
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. 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.
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". 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."
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."Concordia College said that their President was planning a meeting where students could "discuss the matter".
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".
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. The speech was protested and came to an end when a protester, employed as the director of career services at Quinebaug Valley Community College, grabbed Wintrich's speech papers from the podium and Wintrich grabbed her, resulting in breach of peace charges against Wintrich. 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".
While some media sources reacted in the way the original authors on 4chan had expected, others like TheBlaze described the campaign as trolling, or a prank.
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?", 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. 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."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".
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.
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.
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. The controversy was widely reported worldwide and was only a couple of months after the white supremacist Christchurch mosque shootings. In wake of Trade Me banning the shirt, the seller moved to another New Zealand online marketplace, AllGoods.
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". 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. 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).
^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