Patrick Neal / Student Media
“It’s Okay to be White” flyers located in a Nubian Message and Technician newsstand.
Kevin Moye, Managing Editor; Elikem Dodor, Correspondent
On Nov. 1, flyers with the statement “It’s Okay To Be White” were placed in Nubian Message and Technician newsstands around campus.
Flyers were reported in the newsstands on the morning of Nov. 1 by the Director of Student Media Advising, Patrick Neal. The flyers were found in multiple newsstands across campus. In response to the flyers being posted, Neal filed an incident report to NC State’s Bias Impact Response Team (BIRT).
Nubian Message contacted the Bias Impact Response Team regarding the BIRT report process and this specific incident, but upon publication no outreach from BIRT has been made.
The university’s Freedom of Speech and Expression Policy often complicates the issue of controversial speech on campus. NC State’s Freedom of Speech and Expression Policy affirms the university’s commitment to tolerating all speech. The policy states:
“Academic freedom, free speech and free expression are fundamental to the mission and purposes of NC State University. NC State supports, encourages and upholds the freedom of inquiry for students, faculty and staff, to the end that they may pursue these goals responsibly through teaching, learning, research, discussion and publication without restraints that would unreasonably restrict their academic endeavors.”
While university policy stresses its emphasis on free speech, it does also acknowledge areas of speech that are not protected by the first amendment. According to the NC State Free Speech policy, harassment is seen as an impermissible form of speech. The policy states:
“Conduct based on a protected category that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victim’s educational experience, that the victim is effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.”
The Nov. 1 incident was not the first time that hate speech has appeared on campus. Such messaging dates back to 2017 when these flyers were posted across the Stafford Commons, the Free Expression Tunnel and campus newsstands.
Following this event, the university did not release a public statement condemning the actions that had taken place. Chancellor Randy Woodson commented on the issues and expressed his views on the matter.
“There is still a lot of progress that we need to make, and clearly that does not reflect our values, but that is another example that, as a country, we still have work to do,” Woodson said.
Flyers were posted around campus last year as well. The racist leaflets were notably found on the recently renamed Holmes Hall. Previously known as the University College Commons, the building’s name was changed in 2018 to pay homage to NC State’s first Black graduate.
In prior years, the postings of these flyers were tied to the “white nationalist” group Identity Evropa. The group chooses university spaces like NC State to spread its message to young people.
On Nov. 5, 2019, “It’s Okay To Be White” stickers were also spotted on East Tennessee State University’s campus. The flyers were placed all across campus, specifically to cover the school’s first African-American memorial. Since 2016, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has reported that there have been 346 incidents of white supremacist propaganda on 216 different campuses – in 44 different states. Some of these states include California, Connecticut and Oklahoma.
According to the ADL, in the years 2018 and 2019 North Carolina was home to 72 incidents of extremism or anti-Semitism. Twenty-three of those incidents took place in the Triangle with nine of them occurring in Raleigh.
The phrase “It’s Okay To Be White” has direct ties to white supremacy. The ADL stated that the slogan was started on online messaging boards but was popularized by the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke and members of neo-Nazi organizations.
We sat down with Mya McDowell, a first-year studying cellular biology to discuss the impact of these flyers on her experience at NC State. McDowell expressed her frustration when she was made aware of the university’s response through Technician’s coverage of the previous occurrence.
“It is irritating because this happened a year ago to date,” McDowell said. “At the end of the article [the university] says that they will deal with it in a timely manner — it has been a year, it is not a timely manner.”
McDowell explained why she, as well as many others, find the statement to be problematic.
“Saying it’s okay to be white is wrong within itself,” McDowell said. “There is a difference between celebrating your heritage and celebrating being white. If you want to celebrate being Russian, Polish, or Scottish — that is different because that is cultural. Celebrating being white is [celebrating] white supremacy. ”
It is unclear whether any action will be taken against this latest iteration of the flyer postings. As of publication, NC State has yet to release a statement on the matter.