By Julia Berkman
The day after Halloween, posters appeared all over North America reading “It’s Okay To Be White.”
Here on Western’s campus, you may notice that there are no “It’s Okay To Be White” posters to be found. That’s because Western sophomore William Zayas and Whatcom Community College student Nora Boehm followed two men hanging them up and ripped them all down.
A bigoted message board on often controversial site 4chan devised a plan last week to “produce a shit-storm:” a national pro-white poster campaign. Predictably, the campaign is taking social media by the reins.
Zayas and Boehm were headed home from the Rec Center on Tuesday night, October 31, around 10:45 p.m. when they saw two men in black hoodies hanging posters on Wright’s Triangle, the triangular sculpture by Richard Serra by the Art Annex and Ross engineering buildings.
“There was no reason to put any kind of thing on a sculpture and the intent (from what I saw) did not seem like they were trying to spread any sort of positivity, they were just trying to stir things up,” Zayas said Thursday.
Boehm and Zayas decided to follow the men to see if anything could be done. They found at least 10 more posters on their walk from south to north campus that evening.
“They weren’t putting signs anywhere where it was really well-lit and people could see them. They were all in pretty dark areas,” he said. “That was another clue to me they knew what they were doing was wrong.”
Zayas, who is Filipino, Puerto Rican and Black, has rarely felt unsafe on Western’s campus before.
“There’s a lot of crazy things that go on here,” Zayas said, citing evangelical preachers and bigots in red square. “But I just try to put my head down and do my work.”
However, after Tuesday night, Zayas said he would feel less safe as a person of color on campus because now he knows there are people out there who agree with these posters.
As anyone who has taken an intro sociology or race-theory class knows, white pride is a coverup for racism.
“When I think of pride in your identity, I think of pride in your culture like, ‘I’m proud to be Swedish, I’m proud to be Pakistani!’ I don’t think of ‘I’m proud to be white.’ When I see people saying it’s okay to be white, I think of colonialism and what comes with that and I don’t necessarily think that anything positive will come out of it,” Zayas said.
AS President Simrun Chhabra agreed.
“It’s always been okay to be white. It’s always been okay in every space,” Chhabra said. “These posters are pointless because everyone has known this for so long. This takes up space where people of color, especially native and black folks, need to heal.”
Zayas and Boehm lost sight of the two men, but doubled back to Wright’s Triangle to see if they would return to the scene of the crime. They did.
While Zayas hung back and called Campus Police, Boehm confronted the two men.
“We talked to Campus Police and they told us they couldn’t do anything because of freedom of speech, but they could charge them for vandalizing the sculpture. The cop came up to us,” Zayas said. “It seemed like he was just really lighthearted about the whole situation and he just wanted to dismiss us from the scene as soon as possible.”
When asked about the posters, the two men only had one stock reply, according to Zayas: “What, is it bad to be white?”
Their reaction was planned ahead of time as part of a ploy for alt-right 4channers to sway “normies” (aka people who don’t lean in a particular political direction) onto their side after seeing the drastic negative reactions in the media to a “completely innocuous message.”
“The idea is to get the left and the k***s to go apeshit over something so innocuous.
Doing something ‘more aggressive’ is counterproductive. The main message we’re trying to spread is not whats [sic] on the paper, but how the left and the k***s react to it,” posted a 4chan user to the original thread.
So, here at the AS Review, we won’t go “apeshit” and feed the trolls. You can take a look at the Politically Incorrect 4chan thread and find out for yourself whether or not they’ve got it right. No, it’s just the facts here. Facts are, this poster is technically correct. It is technically okay to be white, just as it is technically okay to be a man or to be straight.
You can’t choose to be born into your privilege, but you can choose how you use and control it. It’s okay to be white as long as you’re using your whiteness as a sword to cut down racists. Anything less than that, and you might just be the normies 4chan is reaching for.
Editor’s note: We have decided to print the abbreviated version of the anti-semitic slurs to give a sense of the prevalence of, and normalcy of, bigotry within the group organizing the posters.
[Nora Boehm (left) and William Zayas (right) encountered the posters after leaving the rec center Halloween night. Photo courtesy of William Zayas]