‘It’s OK to be white’: Behind the insidious new white supremacist conversion tool that's spreading on college campuses

Alt-righters hope to “expose the media’s anti-white bias through their reaction to a harmless flyer.”

Image via Shutterstock

The grammatically incorrect phrase “Its OK 2 B White” was recently spray painted on a wall in Long Beach, California.

The Long Beach Post traced the roots of the graffiti, noting that the seemingly innocuous message has been strategically weaponized by white supremacists to spur media overreaction and convert people to their cause.

“The crux is that, while it’s OK to be white, it’s not OK to be racist; that’s where the beginnings of this simple message start to show their complex inner workings—and Long Beach should not take the message lightly,” writes Long Beach Post columnist Brian Addison.

The phrase was spread in fliers passed out on Halloween in Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington, and other places. Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson also gave the sentiment momentum with a segment on his show.

The meme started on 4chan via /pol/ (the imageboard’s “politically incorrect” channel). Daily Stormer white supremacist Andrew Anglin then asked readers to post fliers “everywhere.”

The leaflets have appeared across college campuses, including Harvard.

Anglin explains how it’s being used.

“Its point? Create a message that is ostensibly inoffensive in order to spur “overreactions,” particularly from liberals and the media; these overtly emotional reactions to a seemingly inoffensive phrase would then make them look hypocritical or, in the least, intellectually dishonest: “So you do hate white people?” writes Anglin. “Or, as it was put on 4chan: “Expose the media’s anti-white bias through their reaction to a harmless flyer.”

A user on Gab, the social network that provides a space for white supremecists and other extremists, explained it thusly: “There is something ingeniously passive-aggressive in ‘It’s OK to be White’ in how it draws college-muds to lose self control and sputter on camera. Right out of Sun Tzu, strike them softly, watch them self destruct. It works perhaps even BETTER than intended.”

Other users noted that the phrase was a better recruiting tool than Nazi armbands.

“Aggressive insignia [such as Nazi armbands] only work if the wearer follows through. Otherwise it’s all-bark, no bite. #IOTBW is not a demand or a plea, it’s subversion.”

The Long Beach Post points out that municipalities should not take the spread of this message lightly. “Of course it’s OK to be white. But it is horrendous and wrong to promote racism or white supremacy on any level.”

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Tana Ganeva is a reporter covering criminal justice, drug policy and homelessness. Follow her on Twitter @TanaGaneva.