Is It OK to Be White?

Is it OK to be white? The question is at once disingenuous, facetious, satirical, and self-parodic. It is also one of the consequential questions being posed in earnest by the moral and political vanguards of our time. The question invites the typical reader to resist its implications—to deny that the question is one that anyone would think to ask, or that people are asking. But people have thought to ask it, they are asking it. It is the sort of question that one doesn’t think to ask at all unless the answer is going to be no.

The pranksters who originally posed the question did so by interjecting a proposed answer into the physical world. The answer that they posted on signs and scraps of paper at universities and high schools in the United States and Canada was an affirmation in five uninflected words, rendered in a slender sans serif font in all caps on a plain white background. “It’s OK to be white.”

The flyers pose two questions: Who posted them? And, why? The answer to the first question is an online network of ironic, post-ironic, and deadly earnest white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and others hosted on forums such as 4Chan, the anonymous free-speech zone that is at once a predominant influence on the form that online communication now takes today, and a cardinal exemplar of the social hazards of unfettered speech. The answer to the second question is deducible from the news coverage that the flyers received. The news media fulfilled the prank’s aims, which were only achievable with its unwitting—and as the pranksters well understood, inevitable—collaboration.

In his heart you know the author doesn’t believe it’s OK.

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