News / Calgary

Why finding 'It's okay to be white' posters at the U of C doesn't surprise anyone

The southern Alberta campus was Canada's latest target of a 4chan scheme to troll universities.

The poster-style message made popular in the U.S. has been popping up at the University of Calgary.

source / reddit

The poster-style message made popular in the U.S. has been popping up at the University of Calgary.

An 8.5 by 11-inch piece of white paper with a bold black "It's okay to be white" message is stirring up reams of problems on campuses across the United States, and now it's fluttering in the southern Alberta winds.

This week, the University of Calgary rock donned the message, and several spots on campus were also dotted with the letter just a week after the same sentiment appeared at the University of Alberta.

A number of online sources, including the Washington Post, suggest the prank was born in a 4chan chatroom, a dark corner of the internet famous for pretending, or actually hacking nudes of famous people, and tracking down creeps in real life to harass them.

Brewed to expose far left campuses, and make white Americans suspicious of the media, the original 4chan thread asked users to dress up in costumes for Halloween and post the generic message across U.S. campuses.

Students' Union President Branden Cave said he's disappointed, but not surprised to see the posters on his campus.

"We see university as a place for open dialogue, but it needs to be respectful," he said. "It's the conversation that goes on behind the piece of paper that makes people uncomfortable."

He said from an SU standpoint they just want to ensure students feel welcome and safe on campus, and they take a stand condemning hate speech at the University of Calgary because it impedes students' education.

Unlike the University of Alberta president's statement about the posters – he called them racist – last week, officials at the University of Calgary were less critical.

“The Rocks have become a long-standing symbol of free expression at the University of Calgary," read a prepared statement.

"The University of Calgary is committed to fostering an environment of free inquiry, open debate and diversity of opinions. The university supports students or others sharing their views about subjects – including those that are controversial – in a safe and respectful manner.”

The rock was quickly painted over by members of the campus Women's Studies and Feminist Club.

Maki Motapanyane is an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies isn't surprised the posters are cropping up at Alberta universities.

"These posters are a symptom," Motapayane said. "One of those ugly things that we don't often like to recognize is there."

She said anytime historically where there have been signs of progress, or inclusiveness in society there's often some sort of backlash. Motapayane is considering these posters as part of that pattern.

Although Canada has established itself through policy, legislation and nationalistic language, painting itself as an example of a multicultural society, in practice, that's a threatening and problematic notion for a number of citizens.

"These people are mystifying something that doesn't have to be that complicated," she said. "There's nothing about our contemporary culture that would prevent a white person from living a happy, healthy life ... there's nothing about equity and arguing about equity that challenges the existence of white people as white people."

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