These past few weeks, banners were placed on high schools, colleges and universities all over the nation by pranksters from 4chan — an online imageboard which took to wider popularity during the 2016 presidential election as a hub of the “alt-right” — and students alike, reading the same slogan:
“It’s ok to be white.”
It struck a nerve with administrators, locals and students, who thought of the posters as being connected to white supremacist groups or touting a backlash at diverse campuses. However, the purpose of the posters was more articulate than most realize. They were created to prompt the very particular reaction: to reveal how schools and administrators address the issues facing diversity on campus without mentioning or outright ignoring the white population. The phrase was calculated perfectly, as anyone who took offense to the simple phrase — without any context or background as to why the posters exist — would come off as racist or insensitive to the existence of whites.
The backstory is a little more elaborate than what meets the eye. The desired reaction by this particular group of anonymous internet figures is somewhat fractured. Some wanted to simply state to others that it’s ok to be white — no matter how hard left leaning or “marxist” university systems tell you so — and that the concerns or input of white students is often overlooked in order to lift up the input or visibility of students of color.
Some took it to the furthest extent, and wanted to use the reaction to the posters as part of a larger and more conspiratorial claim: Universities — as well as media at large — are overtly leftist and therefore hold distinctly anti-white sentiments. They also claim that they ignore the shrinking population of those with European backgrounds, and propagate anti-white sentiment that would ultimately amount to the end of whites as we know them — white genocide.
Purpose aside, university administrators bit the bait, and they bit it hard. The response to these posters basically summed up the expectations of the people who posted them, with some blatantly stating that it’s not ok to be white without clarifying further. However, many referenced how “whiteness” is a social construct developed in early American history as a form of racial dominion over others. While it’s understandable as a reaction to these posters given the context, it still fuels the fire for these jokesters by proving that people can’t simply say that it is ok to be white — for fear of being associated with unseemly persons.
This campaign and its ongoing coverage raises endless questions: Can we discuss diversity while including white people as an equal and important part of our community? Can we truly “deconstruct whiteness” and represent ourselves as those of European stock, and not of racial supremacy? It’s a hard discussion to have even today, but the best response is simply “yes”.
It’s ok to be white. There’s nothing controversial about appreciating your European heritage no matter where you are from or what age we live in. Learning to appreciate our backgrounds without using it to stake claims of supremacy is the best way to love ourselves as who we are — using it for dominions sake merely spoils our appreciation and turns it into wanton pride. The best way to react to these posters is by knowing that it is ok to be European — just as much as it’s ok to be any other ethnicity. By saying so, we can put aside the farce or conspiracy theories of those who want to reclaim supremacy as an aspect of heritage.