It’s hard not to notice the “It’s Ok to be White” signs popping up all over campus throughout the past few weeks, plastered on posters and chalk-written on floors and walls. The authors’ agendas and their words must be discussed. They know that this is how to get our attention, whether or not we wanted to give it to them.
This stunt originated from the “Politically Incorrect” board on 4chan, in an effort to show that “lefties and journalists hate white people.” Anonymous users were urged to hang up these racist signs on college campuses to urge students to notice the media’s supposedly anti-white agenda. However, the reverse racism that these posters are insinuating is not a predominant issue in America. Our society has chosen white as the default race in history books, news outlets, and entertainment media. The marginalized voices of our nation are getting louder, but this does not mean that the white voice is becoming oppressed.
In response, other students have transformed these words to become “It’s Not Ok To Be Ignorant.” On the bridge connecting UCI to University Town Center, phrases such as “Refugees Are Welcome” and “I’m ashamed of my own race” have also been written.
The words themselves do no physical harm because, in the end, they are just words of the English language. “It’s Ok to Be White” is a benign statement if presented within a vacuum; of course, no one should be ashamed of or demeaned for their racial background. What is important to note is the intent of these words and their connotations, especially within the context of modern American society. These words are emotionally harmful. They are meant to hurt minorities and to invalidate the ongoing efforts to bring attention to marginalized groups.
These words are no different than the “All Lives Matter” that tries to devalue the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Obviously, each and every person’s life does matter. However, the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement is to campaign against the violence and systemic racism towards black people. All Lives Matter is meant to ignore this specific struggle that the African-American community faces.
“It’s Ok to Be White” is an attempt to promote white victimhood and to invalidate the actual struggles that marginalized groups face every day of their lives. It is also meant to ridicule social justice advocates and liberal-leaning people as triggered social justice warriors. The backlash that social justice movements receive reflect the exact racial division that they are trying to combat.
The historical context of American society is what has created this racial divide that still continues to affect minorities today. Everyone deserves an equal voice, but that in itself is a difficult goal to achieve when the privileged white voice has tried to silence the minority voice for so long. White people are not at fault for our nation’s past. However, those who continue to uphold and benefit from institutional and systematic racism are actively promoting this endless cycle of racism.
Our school administration should promote this conversation about racial divide by facilitating civil and respectful debates and discussions regarding systems of racism that affect our daily lives. The words written in chalk can be washed away and the printed posters can be taken down. Unfortunately, the situation regarding race in America cannot be as easily defeated. It requires active participation and discussion to understand the injustices that exist and what we can do about them.
While it is easy to ignore or pretend not to notice the written words around us, it is important to acknowledge the social and systematic racism that still exists in our society. We cannot defeat racism through symbolism or words, but rather by putting our efforts against the systems that keep perpetuating racist practices. We also should not give power to the race-baiting words meant to create a greater divide among students. We must work together towards a restorative racial justice.
Amy Huynh is a first-year aerospace engineering major. She can be contacted at email@example.com.