On Monday morning several reports from students described fliers taped to the walls of dormitories, halls and the Memorial Chapel, that were unauthorized by Student Life. The fliers were plain, 8½ x 11 printer paper with five words in all capital letters: “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE.”
It is not known whether the fliers were posted by a single individual or a group or even if they attend the university. Their appearance however aroused frustration from some students around campus who found them to be “problematic.” University of Redlands sophomore Meriam Shams’ Snapchat reads:
“Nobody is saying it’s not okay to be white? The rise in pride with self identity of POC follows centuries of oppression. Everyone is feeling pride in who they are. That doesn’t take away from one group or the other.”
On Thursday, notes were posted to the walls around Bekins Hall condemning “Things said by white people in Johnston,” apparently a form of response to the original fliers. One claimed an anonymous white person expressed the desire to be ethnically Latina because then they would “actually have a culture,” and purported being a white person was “boring.” The rebuttal next to the quote said: “I wish I had your privilege.”
In an email entitled “Free Expression and Posting Flyers on Campus,” Dean of Student Affairs, Donna Eddleman explained the situation surrounding the fliers, claiming multiple “counter-fliers” were posted shortly after, with phrases like “It’s Okay to be Black,” and “It’s Okay to be Gay.” The email reported that these were also removed as a violation of posting policy. However, Eddleman praised the counter-fliers and called for the author of any of them to come forward:
“Rather than promoting or engaging in serious speech, anonymous flyers appear designed to provoke. The ‘counter-flyers’ – though also not approved under the posting policy – were a smart way of countering speech with more speech. But, rather than ‘taking the bait,’ I invite the person(s) who posted any of the flyers to come forward and be a part of a collaborative, engaging, and serious conversation across our collective community.”
Though the “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE” fliers are new to the University of Redlands, they are not a new phenomenon to the rest of the country. Reports from Ohio to New Orleans to Canada have documented the appearance of “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE” fliers on high schools and college campuses as early as October of last year. They apparently originated from the anonymous online message board 4chan, where self-styled members of the alt-right often congregate. An anonymous user made a post on Halloween night of last year outlining a plan to post the fliers around campuses and elsewhere around the United States. The author outlines a plot intended to bait the mainstream media into interpreting racist undertones in the message, so that “normies” would suddenly realize that “leftists and journalists hate white people,” and subsequently turn on them. Doing so was intended to gain a “massive victory for the right in the culture war.” The author’s motives seem to support Eddleman’s assertion that the original fliers were designed to provoke.
Though the responses from Bulldogs were mostly negative, others found no apparent issue with the statement on the fliers. The Executive Director of Equity and Diversity at Washington State University, where the same fliers appeared, called the message on the fliers “a nonthreatening statement.” Attempts to report the fliers as a hate crime at University of California, Berkeley were unsuccessful because the police found no race to be targeted.
Many University of Redlands students openly condemned the fliers, but because they were so briefly posted (they were all torn down by students and staff on the same day they appeared), most were initially unaware of their presence.