It's OK To Be You

The culture wars came to my university this week when "It's okay to be white" posters appeared around campus. Although my colleagues and I are all pretty strongly opposed to this kind of thing (we defaced them or tore them down), the posters did generate debate among us about what tactics to adopt against the far-right, as well as about whether there was a valid point somewhere in the message.

So does this kind of poster campaign serve a positive purpose, or is it just mindless trolling and/or a recruitment tool for far-right groups?

I’m going to contrast here the respective reactions to “It’s ok to be white” and “Black lives matter”.

Both of these statements make a plain, unobjectionable claim. Both smuggle in an assumption that the Bad Guys disagree with the plain, unobjectionable claim.

The counter to “Black Lives Matter” was “All Lives Matter”. The counter to “It’s OK to be White” is “You can’t say that, racist!”

Imagine for a moment that the reactions were reversed. Imagine if “It’s OK to be White” were counter-memed with “It’s OK to be You”. I think that would be an effective response that would kill the power of the original statement.

And imagine that the response to “Black Lives Matter” were to tear down any poster that said it and shame any person who spoke it. I think that would make the message of “Black Lives Matter” all the more pressing and urgent and powerful.

Do you still think that you are combatting white supremacism by pulling down these posters?