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Student op-ed: ‘OK to be White’ posters ‘implicitly promote hate while explicitly remaining innocuous’

Just when you thought the brouhaha surrounding the proliferation of those “Okay to be White” posters and stickers couldn’t get any dopier, along comes a University of Maryland student to prove you wrong.

Allegedly established via a 4chan campaign, the racial sloganeering has made its mark on campuses across the US and Canada. At Harvard, the dean of the Law School called “Okay to be White” a “provocation,” and said its intent is “to divide us from one another.” Across our northern border, law enforcement even got involved in one instance because, after all, there’s no First Amendment there.

Thus, it seems the campaign’s goal of making the media (along with progressives and academics) go “completely berserk” certainly worked.

Maryland’s Jack Lewis is part of that list.

Writing in the campus paper The Diamondback, Lewis says the “Okay to be White” posters are “covert racism,” a “coded affirmation of white supremacy,” and “political instruments that fit into a tradition of American hate speech”:

The most sinister rhetoric of white supremacy will implicitly promote hate while explicitly remaining innocuous — at least in the minds of white audiences. But when the initial claim receives any backlash, the wave of responses becomes far from ambiguous. A black student at this university tweeted a picture of the sign, asking, “When did it not become okay to be white?”

Well, perhaps that student has yet to attend an all-too-common-these-days campus workshop on race and privilege, or somehow missed the enthusiastically progressive grad student instructor anxious to impart his/her anti-racism wisdom.  Both of these examples (and many more) too often deem white people responsible for virtually every conceivable social and political malady. And — it doesn’t matter if Caucasians are actually working against these evils or not!

That’s how progressive theoretical race politics work: If white people are actively working to end “white supremacy,” they’re not doing it the “right” way. If they’re doing nothing, their “silence equals violence.” Or something. Etcetera.

In some respects, columns like this one are what white supremacists want. They believe that by framing this discussion as criticism of the idea, “It’s okay to be white” (as opposed to the impact of such rhetoric), they can mobilize “pro-white activism.” This strategy also appears successful. White fragility has been so well-cultivated in America that it pervades everything from our elections to Starbucks cups. Whether it manifests as a written expression of defiant white pride or the murder of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins, white fragility persists on our campus. …

Obviously all white supremacist speech is divisive. But there is something particularly effective in the type of coded language that seems uncontroversial to many whites. By identifying the racism underlying these signs on campus, I have risked “taking the bait” of division. But illuminating the methods underlying white supremacist rhetoric is too important to keep quiet. This toned-down but still pro-white speech is a tool of racism.

Nah, you simply took the bait, Mr. Lewis. For, apparently as planned, the message for middle-of-the-road folks is uncontroversial: a nonchalant thumbing of the nose to the “enlightened” who lecture people that anything associated with whiteness (outside of the European continent, that is) is inherently bad and/or evil, and that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a colorblind society is racist and a continuation of white supremacy.

It’s time like these, Mr. Lewis and those like you, where a bit of introspection is in order. Instead of lashing out at your political/philosophical nemeses, consider that in your irascible immodest zeal, you’ve swung the (racial) pendulum just a bit too far in one direction.

Read the full piece.

MORE: ‘It’s okay to be white’ signs spark outrage on campuses

MORE: Okay to be White’ stickers pop up at Harvard; Law School dean calls them a ‘provocation’

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.