Earlier this month, signs that read ‘IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE’ appeared on campus. This issue was brought to light by Dr. Margolies, who hosted a speaker from the Lighthouse On Deck series. The speaker in question found the sign taped to a poster in Blocker.
“I was surprised and horrified,” said Dr. Margolies. “It was clearly meant in a racist sort of way.” He mentioned that this is not the first time such signs have appeared on campus, and attributed the recent racial tensions to the Trump administration, which “is emboldening people to let their inner racist speak out.”
The signs have increasingly appeared across college campuses and cities as part of a movement to sway white Americans to far-right or alt-right ideologies. The Washington Post reported on the phenomenon and explained its origins: “The signs began as a suggestion on the online chat space 4chan last month, a kind of Internet prank laced with ennui and cynicism about race and white identity in modern-day America.”
President Miller is aware of the signs and has asked Provost O’Rourke to investigate the matter further.
These signs, coupled with recent controversial social media posts, have prompted the possibility of a community forum on campus to discuss racial tensions.
Though Professor Margolies doesn’t believe that Wesleyan administration will host a community forum without pressure, he stated that such a forum may be helpful. “I think it’s always good to talk. I think it’s always good to open lines of communication as long as it’s respectful,” Margolies said.
At the last SGA meeting on Nov. 9, members discussed initiating a community forum themselves rather than waiting for administration to host one.
“Personally, I think it’s actually a really good idea,” senior Aaliyah Chears-Burton said.
“I mean, you probably won’t even know how many people are going to be willing to show up for that, because some people avoid that, but it’s good to put it out there.”
Additionally, Black Student Union (BSU) hosted a “Meet the Minorities” event that same day. A promotional poster for the event read, “Let’s resolve issues on our campus…Come join us with other minority groups on campus! PEOPLE OF ALL BACKGROUNDS ARE WELCOME TO COME.”
Marlin Ministries held an event on Nov. 15 with the same goal of openly examining racial issues in a mediated and safe environment.
The last community forum hosted was in response to the Jane Doe case.
The social media posts referenced above are comprised of two incidents, the first of which came during the spring semester of the 2016-2017 academic year, when then-freshman Kylea McCarel posted Snapchat photos that were dubbed ‘Islamophobic.’
McCarel is not currently a student at Virginia Wesleyan. James Madison University’s media outlet, The Tab, reported on the event in an article found at the following URL: https://thetab.com/us/jmu/2017/05/10/virginia-student-islamophobia-4517.
The second of these incidents came more recently, when freshman Alexander Leonard was depicted in a Snapchat post in front of a whiteboard reading, “Developing countries be like: Water? Who she? She bad? She got friends? Alex supports the enslavement of African AIDS.”
President Miller said that he “referred the matter for review by members of senior administrative leadership headed by Provost O’Rourke.”
In case the backstory behind the signs isn’t clear, The Washington Post goes more in-depth about the original intent. “News reports would draw attention to the posters, the writer behind the idea predicted. Then white Americans derisively referred to as ‘normies’ in the white nationalist ecosphere will discovered that American journalists and ‘lefties’ hate white people. In the process, ‘normies’ will stop regarding news outlets as credible…inevitably converting more ‘normies’ to the white nationalist, alt-right side,” the outlet reported.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recorded more than 150 reports of fliers and other recruitment materials from the white nationalist movement on college campuses in the months following President Trump’s inauguration. The ‘IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE’ posters are the latest of such propaganda.
Students on campuses have started separate movements to introduce the SPLC to their campuses, called “SPLC on Campus.” The movement is dedicated to educating student about racial issues. “Help fight hate and stop bigotry. Take action on your campus now,” reads the movement’s website.