Staff and students at the University of Manitoba are condemning acts of racism after multiple posters with the words, “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE,” were spotted in the hallways, bathrooms, and food service areas of multiple buildings on the Fort Garry campus on Thursday.
In addition to the posters, a fax from an ‘A. Wyatt Mann’ was sent to the university’s women and gender department.
“It is enormously disappointing to me that in this era of reconciliation when we should be coming together,” department head Dr. Cary Miller told Global News via email.
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The slogan was originally started in an online message board with the intent of having a “harmless message” provoke a strong reaction. The saying was later adopted by neo-Nazi and far-right groups and has a history with those groups going back as far as 2001.
The school’s student union said it doesn’t know who is responsible for putting the posters up, but believes they were posted late Wednesday night.
“It is clear from this, that while the message is extremely troubling for all people of colour on campus, it was particularly targeted towards Indigenous peoples,” union president Jakob Sanderson wrote in a statement.
Similar incidents have been reported in other parts of Canada and the U.S.
Sanderson said this is not an isolated incident at the U of M is encouraging students to come forward with concerns.
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“We stand in solidarity with all marginalized communities on campus during this time,” the statement reads.
U of M president David Barnard condemned the posters in a statement sent to all employees.
“It has come to my attention that a number of racist posters have been posted on the University of Manitoba campuses as part of what is understood to be a coordinated international effort by neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.
“We share a sense of revulsion and need to act because of what we see happening around us. The treatment of refugees. The tone of anger and hatred in political discourse. The installation of corrupt regimes. A distressing number of hate crimes. Terrorist attacks.
The University has removed those posters that have been identified and Security Services is already investigating this incident. Anyone identifying additional locations is asked to bring them to the attention of Security Services as well.
A circle was held on campus Friday morning to support students who feel targeted by the incident.
Correction: A previous version of this story said a fax of the poster was sent to the university’s Department of Native Studies. Global News received incorrect information and a university spokesperson said the fax was actually sent to the nearby Department of Women and Gender Studies. We have updated the story with the new information.