The University of Alaska Anchorage is one of many colleges around the country where a cryptic five-word flyer has been found on campus, proclaiming “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE.”
It was the equivalent of a flash-mob prank that’s all the rage with the kids these days.
As with other campuses around the country, the administration of UAA reacted quickly to the threat, immediately sending a note to everyone on its mass email list, offering counseling for those who were offended:
Dear UAA Community,
It has come to the attention of university leadership with the statement “it’s okay to be white” were posted in various places on the UAA campus. Further investigation revealed this is part of a movement occurring at high schools and universities nationwide designed to create racial tension and division with the express goal of eliciting media coverage.
At UAA, we refuse to be divided.
We honor diverse experiences and perspectives — including differences in ideas, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, culture, nationality, age, disability, veteran and socioeconomic status.
To that end, university leadership will use this as an opportunity to engage out campus community in dialogue about our differences, our similarities and our shared values surrounding diversity, inclusion and respect for one another.
Members of our team are here to support you if you need someone to talk to about these flyers. I encourage you to reach out to the Dean of Students Office 907-786-1214 or to the Student Health and Counseling Center 907-746-4040.
Samuel B. Gingerich
ORIGINS OF THE FLYER
The “It’s Okay to be White” slogan was first seen on 4chan (image-based online bulletin board), possibly as a test to see if the phrase would attract accusations of racism and white supremacy.
Those unfamiliar with 4chan might be showing signs of age, but it’s a wild and uncensored set of forums that are primarily visual. There’s a lot of Japanese animation and video games. Users and those who post are anonymous.
Evidently the academic community fell right into the trap. The flyers were found across the country and in Canada, from Concordia College in Minnesota, Tulane University in New Orleans, and Harvard.
At one university, the flyer was reportedly plastered over a Black Lives Matter flyer.
On Oct. 31, posts showed up on 4chan calling for viewers to post the message “It’s Okay to Be White” in public places as a “proof of concept” that a “harmless message” would cause a “massive media shitstorm.”
An analysis of the news coverage shows dozens of news stories from papers such as The Washington Post to the Huffington Post covering the incident.
At least one university president labeled it hate speech.
When the posters showed up on campus bulletin boards in advance of a Black Lives Matter event, East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland to issue a statement about hate speech.
“This morning, we became aware of flyers that were posted on our campus that support the notion of white supremacy,” Noland wrote on Twitter.
“While we are a campus where the difference of opinion and civil discourse are respected, inciting hate is not tolerated. Such behavior goes against our institutional values where people are treated with dignity and respect.”
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
An earlier version of inclusiveness, “All Lives Matter,” became briefly popular after Black Lives Matter became a cultural phenomenon and lightning rod for rioting.
The “All Lives Matter” meme was quickly labeled racist by the left, who said the phrase showed insensitivity.
The “IT’S OKAY” poster was found in the student union building at UAA and in Beatrice Hall, where the cafeteria is.
The administration removed the flyers from places in campus where flyers are disallowed, but left them up on the public notice boards, according to officials.