Alex Boyd, Metro News, October 31, 2017
The day after someone left a racist jack-o-lantern outside Native Studies at the University of Alberta, a message reading ‘It’s okay to be white’ was taped to the building’s front door.
Native Studies Dean Chris Andersen said he found it when he got to work Tuesday morning, and tore it down before too many people saw it. He said he’s not sure whether it was targeted at his office, or at East Asian Studies, which is on the floor above.
“It’s juvenile, but these are the kinds of petty imbecilities that are symbolic of feelings of fragility and frailty present in mainstream society,” he said.
The poster was just one of many found across campus Monday morning.
Graduate student Jan Buterman said he saw one on a bulletin board at the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, but before he could take a picture a guy ripped it off the wall and crumpled it up. He estimates there were three or four in the hallway.
Buterman points out that he is white, but finds the poster “stupid and horrifying.”
“This was not directed at me, I don’t need people to tell me it’s okay to be white. It’s okay to be human, and this is just bullshit,” he said.
Irfan Chaudhry, a criminology instructor at MacEwan University, said this latest crop of posters seem to be a more organized effort than in the past.
He pointed to online forums that instruct readers to create the posters, but strip them of any obvious symbols like swastikas so they’re viewed as less obviously hateful.
A poster on a forum called endchan, for example, notes that “based on past media response to similar messaging, we expect the anti-white media to produce a shit-storm about these ‘racist, hateful, bigoted fliers’ … with a completely innocuous message.”
Irfan said instigators create these posters to highlight what they see as a double standard around who is affected by discrimination.
“[They think that] if it happens to white people it doesn’t really count, that’s the underlying theme that some of these groups are trying to highlight,” he said.
The issue with this? The lack of historical context, he says.
He said it’s important to acknowledge that inequality still exists between racial groups in Canada, often based on historical reasons.
“A lot of these groups that are saying that Black Lives Matters should be classified as a hate group, for example, are the same ones that maybe don’t have the historical understanding around the significance of what has led us to this situation,” he said.
This comes a day after a pumpkin with a mock headdress was found outside Pembina Hall Monday, which houses the Faculty of Native Studies.
In a statement posted to the university website Tuesday afternoon, President David Turpin said “the university is aware of several incidents of racism that have occurred on north campus in recent days.”
The statement referred to both the pumpkin and the posters.
“Messaging or displays that target or marginalize any individuals or groups will not be tolerated. We are working with University of Alberta Protective Services to find the parties responsible.”