What is all the fuss about, exactly?
It has been fascinating to watch the mania surrounding the “It’s Okay to Be White” meme that has popped up on several campuses across the country. The story is a classic of Internet prank culture: individuals on the crank troll website 4Chan organized a campaign to post signs on university grounds reading “It’s okay to be white.” The plan was to make campus progressives angry and offended, leading to a massive overreaction on the part of college activists and officials that would, due to the horrible optics, result in a “massive victory for the right in the culture war.”
Well, it sort of worked: campuses went pretty nuts over the innocuous and unremarkable signs, calling them “racist,” “divisive,” part of a “racist agenda,” and a campaign to “foment racial and political tension.” One school held a “emergency meeting,” while another school commissioned a police response to the signs—police! You could not have designed a more predictable reaction, not even if you really sat down and gave it some thought.
It is a wonder why so many people took such obvious bait. Outwardly, this whole affair has been a self-evident prank; it does not take a rocket scientist or even a campus diversity officer to see that. On the other hand, the signs are expressing a perfectly true and appropriate statement: it is okay to be white, just as much as it’s okay to be black, or brown, or any other skin color. It is a sad fact of modern campus life that white people are frequently treated as second-class citizens by liberal professors with axes to grind. “It’s okay to be white” has unfortunately become a necessary thing to point out in some cases on some of the more politically zealous and intolerant campuses. Some of the same people who are calling “emergency meetings” to deal with harmless little signs have probably, at some point, tacitly if not openly discriminated against white students in their own classrooms or administrative offices. It is a great irony that those same people cannot see the irony in this case.
We have seen, in recent months and years, what genuine racism looks like; the ugliness of white supremacy is unmistakable and instantly repulsive. Some harmless prank signs stating a basic fact are quite obviously not of the same genus as is real racism. Campus administrators and activists would do well to realize that, and stop making themselves look like fools who miss the entire point of the joke.