Multiple posters with the wording “It’s okay to be white” cropped up across Moscow Thursday morning.
In a university memo, University of Idaho President Chuck Staben denounced the slogan, most often associated with white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups across the nation.
“I am disappointed to see such expression on our campus,” Staben wrote. “The value, ‘Respect’ and our effort to ‘Cultivate a valued and diverse community’ are parts of our Strategic Plan.”
David Harlan, Moscow community member and UI instructor, said he removed posters on his way to the Moscow Food Co-op. Harlan said he spotted four posters, and heard of at least five others spread across the community.
“In today’s environment, it’s one of those statements that intentionally loaded with the baggage of where we are in our society in terms of politics, in terms of where we are in white supremacy” Harlan said. “The statement is innocuous and provocative.”
Harlan said he suspected the person or group behind the posters elicit the reaction. While these occurrences are not new, similar posters appeared on college campuses and in communities across the country Thursday.
“Now, these people, the kind of people who put up posters like that, they are saying their rights are being infringed as other people are getting equal rights,” Harlan said.
Harlan agreed with Staben’s email, which was sent out Thursday evening, that while the phrasing may not outwardly seem offensive, the rhetoric reflects a much more toxic culture.
Staben said in accordance to APM 40.29, any posters, “not on bulletin boards, but on doors, walls, or similar locations will be removed.”
“So, while we can agree it is okay to be white, brown, rich, poor, gay, straight or any number of other identities — and while we respect the right to free expression — we as a community, and certainly I, as your president (and as an individual) do not value this divisive and provocative form of speech,” Staben said.
Brandon Hill can be reached at email@example.com
UPDATE: This article has been changed to reflect the information was derived from an internal memo, not a university news release.
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