Posters that read “It’s OK to Be White” have popped up in cities and schools across the country in recent days, including at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.
A few of the posters were found on the private liberal arts campus Tuesday night and Wednesday.
They have since been removed, but their brief appearance struck a chord with students who said the signs run counter to the school’s values of inclusiveness and safety for all who work and study there.
“I was really shocked that someone had the guts to do this because we try to promote diversity so much, and seeing this is saying, “Hey, we still have students who aren’t fully invested in this diversity message,’ ” senior Micah Ferden told WDAY-TV in Fargo.
The signs apparently were tied to an online campaign on the message board 4chan. An image of the board, where most posts are anonymous, encouraged people to make signs and put them up on campuses on Halloween night.
“Put on a silly costume for anonymity, nobody will think twice because it’s Halloween,” one of the messages said. “The next morning, the media goes completely berserk,” another message said.
Concordia administration removed the signs because they did not follow the display policy for placing signage on the campus, a statement from the school said.
Some have decried the posters as racist, and school President William Craft said he wanted to invite the campus community to engage in a more open conversation on the topic at a forum that he was working to facilitate.
On Wednesday, Craft posted a longer statement on the school’s Facebook page.
“There is and must be a place here for people of different ethnicities and skin colors, of different faith traditions or no faith traditions, of different nations, of different gender identities, of different political convictions,” he wrote. “In that sense, it is indeed OK to be white — and to be black, to be brown, to be Christian, to be Muslim, to be straight, to be gay, to be conservative, to be liberal, and so on. We are stronger for this diversity of identities.”
Similar signs appeared at Purdue University, Tulane University and at schools in Boston, Cleveland and Maryland, as well as the University of Alberta in Canada.
Craft also said posters — with just five words — also speak for what they don’t say. The posters don’t identify the author or group behind the message, thus not affording an opportunity for open discussion and debate.
“To be other than white is all too often to be subjected to discrimination, lack of opportunity, and even the threat and reality of violence,” Craft wrote. “We must reject silences that demean and exclude, and we must engage open conversation about the experience of race on this campus and beyond.”