Students and faculty at Mount Saint Vincent University were surprised to find posters reading “It’s okay to be white” posted around campus the day after Halloween.
“It felt gross,” said Jasmine Tang, the Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) student union’s racialized student representative.
She spotted them around 6:30 a.m. on Friday, but couldn’t explain why they made her feel uncomfortable.
“I didn’t know the historical connotations about it but I took it down and then I did a little bit of research into what it actually meant, and that’s when I discovered how it’s linked to the KKK and a lot of white supremacy groups,” said Tang.
Alex Khasnabish, chair of the sociology and anthropology department at MSVU, said these posters have popped up around North America, Europe and Australia and are an organized campaign by the alt-right.
“The nuance of the statement is what makes it so cunning and so dangerous in a lot of ways,” he said.
He says the idea is to provoke people and get them to ask the question, “but isn’t it okay to be white?”
“They use it as an opportunity to ask that question,” explains Khasnabish. “‘Oh, well, are you saying you hate white people? Are you saying that it’s not okay to be white?'”
From there, he says, alt-right groups work to divide people and seek out those who might already have this sort of grievance
“This is like the first stage you know you float the idea out there, first of all, that some people out there — they’re not named — think that it’s not okay to be white,” said Khasnabish.
Posters appeared last year
This isn’t the first instance in which the posters have appeared in Halifax.
On Halloween 2018, a group was spotted putting up the posters around the Halifax Commons.
MSVU has said they are disappointed to hear about the posters and that the administration “strongly condemns the racism implied by this incident.”
In an email distributed to students, they acknowledged that similar incidents have occurred.
They say that their security team is investigating and that anyone with information on the incident is encouraged to contact them at 902-457-6412.
Students at MSVU say seeing them pop up again, but this time on their campus is disappointing.
“There’s a bit of you can’t believe it at first, but at the same time, you can believe it because there’s so much hatred out there,” said student Gurneet Dhami.
Important to speak out against racism
Dhami and Tang were among a group of students who got together on Monday to discuss the issue.
They also came up with their own way to respond, by unveiling a banner on campus that reads, “No one said it wasn’t.”
“We wanted to show as a university, as a student union, as a student body we’re transparently against this and we’ll stand with all of our racialized students against oppression,” said Tang.
Dhami says getting together with the group was a chance to share how she was feeling and she hopes the banner inspires others to have conversations about race.
Ultimately, Dhami says, it’s important to speak out against racism because ignoring it can be seen as a form of acceptance — and that’s not okay.
“We shouldn’t just stay with the status quo. We kind of need to challenge things, and if we don’t like how society and life is going, we need to do something about that to change it, ” she said.
“We do all have voices that can cause change together.”