The president of East Tennessee State University condemned a series of “It’s Okay To Be White” flyers that covered parts of the Johnson City campus early Friday morning, including a memorial to the first black students to ever attend the university in the '50s.
“It is clear that the posting and placement of these flyers was an attempt to create division in our community and I am disgusted by this act,” President Brian Noland said in a statement to students and faculty on Monday. Noland has asked for tips that might lead to the identification and punishment of whoever placed the signs on campus, reported The Tennessean.
“It’s okay to be white” has been classified as a hate slogan by the Anti-Defamation League since it was popularized in 2017 as part of a campaign by members of 4chan. The campaign was quickly picked up and promoted by white supremacists, including Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.
A 2018 study by the league found that 346 incidents of white supremacist propaganda occurred on 216 college campuses in 44 states over two years, beginning in 2016. Several of the documented incidents involved “it’s okay to be white” flyers, like those distributed in 2018 at the University of Delaware and in 2017 by a 19-year-old marketing major at Florida Gulf Coast University who claimed he was protesting a new course called “white racism.”
On Monday, Noland said school staff quickly removed the flyers after they were found and called them “identical” to the ones “placed on college campuses across the country by white supremacist groups in an attempt to seed division and discord.”
“Our core values are clear: people come first and are treated with dignity and respect,” Noland said. “We recognize the wounds that this incident has opened and have multiple resources available should anyone need support.”