“It’s OK to be white”—or I should say, its far less grammatically sound version “Its OK 2 B white”—was recently spray-painted on a wall in East Long Beach, next to what appears to be an awful interpretation of Odin’s cross, prompting the city to remove the graffiti.
It certainly seems like an innocuous message and, removed from any context, it is; it is OK to be white as most of humanity would agree. The crux is that, while it’s OK to be white, it’s not OK to be racist; that’s where the beginnings of this simple message start to show their complex inner workings—and Long Beach should not take the message lightly.
The first campaign of the message—white paper fliers with nothing other than “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE” appeared in cities on Halloween in Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington, and more—originated in the discussions of far-right internet trolls using imageboard 4chan via /pol/ (the imageboard’s “politically incorrect” channel, a haven for white supremacist talk) in October of 2017. This was followed by white supremacist and Daily Stormer writer Andrew Anglin asking readers to post fliers “everywhere;” the week after, another blast of postings occurred around the nation.
By this year, the message has widely spread across the country, hitting college campuses—at the end of October, leaflets with the message started appearing in Vermont and since then has appeared at Harvard, Duke, CSU San Marcos, Tufts University, University of Delaware, University of Denver, University of St. Thomas…—and the international stage when the Australian Senate almost accidentally passed a motion that “it’s okay to be white” after anti-immigrant pundit and leader of the country’s One Nation Party Pauline Hanson claimed there was “a deplorable rise of anti-white racism and attacks on Western civilization[.]”
Its point? Create a message that is ostensibly inoffensive in order to spur “overreactions,” particularly from liberals and the media; these overtly emotional reactions to a seemingly inoffensive phrase would then make them look hypocritical or, in the least, intellectually dishonest: “So you do hate white people?” Or, as it was put on 4chan: “Expose the media’s anti-white bias through their reaction to a harmless flyer.”
The emphasis on the message never changing and staying in the lanes of simplicity, as seen in this advertisement for how to spread the message most efficiently, is always foremost.
Here is how user @PA_01 explained it on the far-right social media platform Gab:
“There is something ingeniously passive-aggressive in ‘It’s OK to be White’ in how it draws college-muds to lose self control and sputter on camera. Right out of Sun Tzu, strike them softly, watch them self destruct. It works perhaps even BETTER than intended”
In turn, user @heartiste emphasizes:
“precisely. nazi armbands are catnip to libs because as symbols they permit easy pigeonholing of the wearer and cartoonish amplification of any threat he presents. in contrast, #IOTBW is using shitlibs’ psy ops weaponry against them. I love it”
On his blog, @PA_01 went on the say, “Aggressive insignia [such as Nazi armbands] only work if the wearer follows through. Otherwise it’s all-bark, no bite. #IOTBW is not a demand or a plea, it’s subversion.”
When the message started appearing at the University of Toronto, local publication Torontoist noted the identity of the men posting the fliers.
In other words, it is the far-right attempting to create a larger, normalized presence; an in-real-life viral meme that will try to coax moderates toward the false narrative that “reverse racism” is real and progressives are hypocrites when it comes to the discussion of race, systemic racism and prejudice.
And anywhere it’s painted or shown should be an alarm. Of course it’s OK to be white. But it is horrendous and wrong to promote racism or white supremacy on any level.