When the words “Its OK 2 B white” were found scrawled across a wall in East Long Beach Tuesday, the city’s police unit that investigates hate crimes took notice.
The phrase—while not overtly offensive—is a well-known rallying cry for racist groups, according to experts.
“This is the new stealth white nationalism,” said Professor Brian Levin, who runs the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.
After it appeared, Long Beach police sent out an officer with the violent crimes division—which handles hate crimes—to take a report on the graffiti, which was emblazoned in large black letters on a wall along Bellflower Boulevard.
The unit wanted to be aware of it, department spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria said, but they don’t think the phrase qualifies as a hate crime or a “bias-motivated incident” the way a swastika sprayed on a synagogue typically would.
“For us to consider it like that it would have to be targeting a protected class,” Chaverria said.
“Its OK 2 B White,” isn’t derogatory or threatening to any specific ethnic, religious or other group outlined in California’s hate-crime law, she explained. The intent of whoever scrawled phrase is up for interpretation.
“Our law is different, and it’s not up for interpretation,” she said.
Levin noted the graffiti also appeared to include a Celtic cross, long used in white-nationalist imagery.
“This is their call to the troops,” he said. “It’s unmistakable.”
The slogan “It’s OK to be white,” was birthed on the dark corners of the internet and has intruded more and more into the physical world in the past few years, according to Levin.
“This is the wedge that is being used by some of the newer groups who are Internet savvy to broaden their recruitment,” Levin said. “But at the end of the day, it’s still the same repackaged white nationalism in a brighter box.”
Long Beach police said they weren’t aware of any other times the phrase has popped up in the city.
Chavarria urged residents to tell police about anything concerning. Because nobody had reported it directly to police, the LBPD wasn’t aware of the “Its OK 2 B white” graffiti until the Long Beach Post asked about it, she said.
Posting it on social media, even reporting graffiti to Long Beach’s public works department to have it removed, aren’t enough to make sure police are looped in, according to Chavarria.
“There has to be an officer that comes out and takes a report,” she said.
Support our journalism.
Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.