Fliers and stickers reading “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE” have recently been plastered on school campuses and streets across the country.
The phrase has been posted as a part of a coordinated effort that originated in a 4chan chat room. On October 31, an anonymous user posted directions for others to “put on silly [H]alloween costume for anonymity” and post the signs on “campuses (and elsewhere).”
The post said that the signs will gain media attention and “normies” ― what white supremacists refer to white Americans as ― will realize journalists and leftists “hate white people,” leading them to “turn on them.” The anonymous user wrote that it would be a “massive victory for the right in the culture war” by killing media outlets’ credibility and producing more of “our guys.”
Since Halloween, the posters have appeared at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, Tulane University in New Orleans, Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland and campuses in Cambridge, Massachusetts, including the Harvard Yard. They’ve also been spotted in Rocky River, Ohio, at the University of Alberta in Canada and covering Black Lives Matter signs in East Grand Rapids, Michigan. One Twitter user reported seeing the signs in Seattle.
University leaders and community officials have spoken out about the signs.
Renay Johnson, Montgomery Blair’s principal, said that the school is investigating the signs in a letter sent home to students’ families. She added in the letter the school’s community was “smart, diverse and inclusive” and that it would not “fall victim to attempts to divide us,” per The Washington Post.
East Grand Rapids City Commissioners met to condemn the signs on Monday.
“With the kind of world that I’m trying to build for my son, I’m deeply offended, the outrage knows no bounds,” East Grand Rapids First Ward Commissioner Chad Zagel said during the meeting.
After school officials took signs down for not adhering to school policies, Concordia President William Craft said he wanted to hold a public forum to engage students around the topic. He followed up with an additional statement on the university’s Facebook.
“The affirmation of human dignity means that we are an inclusive community: there is and must be a place here for people of different ethnicities and skin colors, of different faith traditions or no faith traditions, of different nations, of different gender identities, of different political convictions,” he wrote. “In that sense, it is indeed okay to be white—and to be black, to be brown, to be Christian, to be Muslim, to be straight, to be gay, to be conservative, to be liberal, and so on. We are stronger for this diversity of identities.”
He continued, “At the same time, we recognize that the poster message speaks in its silence as well as in its words.... It speaks in the silence of not acknowledging that it is all too often not ‘okay’ to be other than white. To be other than white is all too often to be subjected to discrimination, lack of opportunity, and even the threat and reality of violence.”
Many of the signs have been taken down, but the phrase has continued to spread on Twitter as a hashtag.
The posts come at a time when white nationalists have become more visible and emboldened. As the Post notes, the Southern Poverty Law Center recently found that the group is working to target college students. In the months following the 2016 election, SPLC found more than 150 reports of white nationalists fliers and recruitment materials on campuses.