“It’s okay to be white” flyer found on campus

An+anonymous+flyer+reading+%22IT%27S+OKAY+TO+BE+WHITE%22+was+found+on+a+bulletin+board+in+the+Connell+Student+Center+%28CSC%29+on+Mercer%E2%80%99s+Macon+campus+November+8.+
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“It’s okay to be white” flyer found on campus

An anonymous flyer reading

An anonymous flyer reading "IT'S OKAY TO BE WHITE" was found on a bulletin board in the Connell Student Center (CSC) on Mercer’s Macon campus November 8.

Courtesy of Alex Williams

An anonymous flyer reading "IT'S OKAY TO BE WHITE" was found on a bulletin board in the Connell Student Center (CSC) on Mercer’s Macon campus November 8.

Courtesy of Alex Williams

Courtesy of Alex Williams

An anonymous flyer reading "IT'S OKAY TO BE WHITE" was found on a bulletin board in the Connell Student Center (CSC) on Mercer’s Macon campus November 8.

Thais Ackerman and Katie Atkinson

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A flyer reading “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE” was found taped to a bulletin board outside of the Connell Student Center (CSC) on campus last Wednesday.

Over the past month, signs like the one found at Mercer have been popping up on college campuses across the nation including at UC Berkeley, Harvard and Princeton.

After the flyer was found on Mercer’s campus, several students organized a meeting at the CSC on Nov. 12 to discuss unity among black organizations and talk about the flyer’s message.

“[The flyer] made me feel a little bit uncomfortable because the first thing I did kind of think of was racism,” said Georgina Ajorgbor, a member of the African Student Association who attended the meeting.

Quinten Oppong, senior, removed the flyer when he saw it outside of the CSC. Mercer administration has not publicly addressed the flyer with the Mercer community, but Oppong said they should.

“I think administration needs to see and treat racial issues as equivalent to other issues such as sexual assault on campus,” Oppong said. “I think most importantly this whole thing is indicative of the fact that real conversation concerning race has not truly been had.”

Dean of Students Douglas R. Pearson sent a statement to The Cluster in response to a series of questions regarding the flyer’s message. Click here to read the full statement.

“It should not be the role of the University to protect students from ideas or opinions that they find controversial or offensive,” Dean Pearson said in the statement. “But rather to model and engage students in thoughtful debate and civil discourse. However, a flyer that was allegedly posted on campus recently (and then taken down) does not appear to have been intended to promote respectful dialogue or discussion.”

The Mercer University Student handbook states that violating, aiding, condoning, or attempting to commit any breaches to the university’s Community of Respect listed on page 13 of the handbook will result in disciplinary action. This encompasses hate offenses, which constitutes as any offense against a person or property motivated by an offender’s bias against a disability, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or race.

Dean Pearson said he urges all students to think about their actions in light of Mercer’s Community of Respect and suggests anyone with any information regarding the incident should contact Mercer Police.

He gave no indication that the administration plans on addressing the flyer further.

According to The Washington Post, the idea to spread “IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE” flyers originally emerged in a 4chan chatroom on Oct. 31. Users discussed how posting the message in public places would lead to societal disturbance and help aid in the recruitment of white-nationalists.

In the months after the 2016 election, The Southern Poverty Law Center noted an increase in white nationalist propaganda.  The group recorded more than 150 reports of white nationalist flyers and recruitment materials on college campuses.

In an article featured on splcenter.org, SPLC Analyst Keegan Hankes said college students have become a target for white nationalists.

“White nationalists really enjoy campus activism,” Hankes said. “They’re often trying to put an intellectual veneer on things, so it makes sense to peddle that on a college campus where you’re dealing with people who may be just starting to form their ideas about the world.”

At Mercer, students who attended the Nov. 12 meeting shared their concerns with how Mercer administration has addressed racially charged issues in the past.

“This is not the first time something like this has happened,” said Senior Tamar Thomas, referencing the vandalism of Sherwood Hall that took place last year. “I think it’s our job, not just as black students, but every student on campus too, if they do see something racially charged, to bring it to the university and then the university does something about it.”

 

Editor’s note (11/17/2017): This story has been updated to include a link to Dean Pearson’s full statement to The Cluster. 

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