Posters which read “It’s okay to be white” were displayed on University of Bristol’s campus, sparking concerns about far-right “dogwhistle” tactics.
The Twitter account for Bristol Student Union (SU)’s BME Network stated that the phrase is a “popular dogwhistle among white supremacists” in a thread that also explained its use “as a gateway into more serious conspiracies”.
The thread accused the posters of being part of an “effort to steer Western society towards fascism and xenophobia by luring otherwise good people into becoming racist”.
“The phrase is intended to suggest that there is some sort of ‘attack’ on whiteness, directly implying that there is an attempt to subjugate white people and make them into an oppressed minority,” they wrote.
“The phrase presents ethnic minorities as intruding ‘others’, whose equality, and even existence is detrimental to white people.”
In addition, the Twitter thread urged students who encounter the posters to “take it down and show these racists that they are not welcome at the University of Bristol”, and implored students who may have information on the posters to report them.
1/6 The BME Network is horrified to see that posters have been put up all over campus that say "it's okay to be white".
This phrase seems innocent on the surface, but in reality, it is a popular dogwhistle among white supremacists. pic.twitter.com/0AKQ1oL9IC
— Bristol SU BME Network (@BristolSUBME) January 29, 2020
The University of Bristol’s student newspaper, Epigram, has alleged that some students have removed posters “in protest against their content”.
A spokesperson for the university stated: “The University of Bristol aspires to be a community where everyone should feel safe, welcomed and respected.”
They added that the university has “been working actively with staff and students to ensure that (their) commitment to inclusion, diversity and equality is reflected in all aspects of (the) University”.
“It appears that the posters have so far only been seen in public spaces – we have not had any reports of them being put up in University premises,” they said.
Dr Victoria Canning from Bristol’s Criminology department stated: “I really don’t want to give it airtime but this is obviously following on from things like the appearance of Laurence Fox on Question Time, there is a correlation.”
She also refuted the idea that the posters carried a “harmless message”.
The phrase presents ethnic minorities as intruding ‘others’, whose equality, and even existence is detrimental to white people
– University of Bristol SU’s BME Network
Dr Canning added: “To try and orchestrate outrage to then suppress it is a form of social silencing – the very people who point the finger and say you are hysterical are the ones creating these mechanisms to silence us because no one wants to speak out against them.”
The Independent reported that the posters, also found in Bristol’s city centre, are “widely supported by neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups” including KKK grand wizard David Duke.
Moreover, the idea for the posters originated on 4Chan to create outrage among left-wing circles.
The posters subsequently appeared on campuses across the US, including the University of Washington, and spread to countries including Canada, Scotland and Australia. The same posters are said to have appeared in Hull recently.
In November last year, far-right ‘dogwhistle’ posts prompted the deletion of ExeHonestly, a popular anonymous confessions page used by Exeter University students.