“It’s okay to be white” flyers have their roots in a scare tactic designed by American online alt-right nationalists to spark liberal outrage and build support for white supremacy.
The slogan appeared in response to a YouTube channel upload on Oct. 23, 2017, with a segment from Boston TV station WHDH. The clip reported police were investigating whether white supremacists had placed signs that featured an illustration of American government symbol Uncle Sam with the caption: “I want you to love who you are / don’t apologize for being white.”
The slogan “It’s okay to be white” was posted to online at 4chan.org — an online, anonymous chat forum or billboard — on Oct. 31, 2017. The posts called for people to place posters with the slogan in public places as “proof of concept” that a “harmless message” would cause a media fervour that would push white Americans to the far right.
The posters have since been taped to street standards and on campuses in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, always to the same outraged liberal reaction.
Among the more bizarre episodes were laminated cards with the slogan found in baby diaper boxes sold in Target locations, which triggered an apology from the American retailer. In Adelaide, Australia, police warned of uncorroborated social media posts that razor blades were stuck behind the posters taped to light standards
Beyond the furor, however, the concept dates back centuries. Greek philosopher Aristotle labelled such slogans enthymemes, described as how to stop short of making an explicit claim and count on the audience to fill it in, particularly when it allows someone to imply controversy.
Online sites can be counted on to blow up over the ensuing reaction, as they did last weekend on alt-right sites in Canada and on Reddit.com.
“Is it a glorified dog whistle? Yes. But it’s not aimed at white supremacists. It’s aimed at you,” one post lamented online last weekend, after such flyers were taped to the walls of University of Manitoba campus buildings and faxed to the Winnipeg school’s native studies department.
— Alexandra Paul