A social media post of a photo of a man allegedly putting up flyers saying “It’s OK to be white” outside of Ashland's Shop'n Kart has roused some backlash on an Ashland community Facebook page this week.
Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said the department hasn’t gotten any direct report about the particular incident, besides several inquiries via social media.
According to accounts online, the phrase “It’s OK to be white” started being used in an anonymous chat-room in October. Since then, posters and flyers with the same message have been posted at hundreds of college campuses in the country, including University of Oregon in Eugene and Clark College in Vancouver, where the reaction was mostly against the message.
O’Meara said APD doesn’t consider the flyers and its message as a hate crime.
“I understand where people are coming from,” O’Meara said. “But this would be considered a low-level vandalism charge.”
He added that the crime drew more attention because of its controversial content.
“If I go up to a private property and post a missing cat flyer, I’m committing the same crime, but probably nobody cares,” he explained.
A Medford man was arrested for criminal mischief in January 2017 after posting Nazi-themed flyers in downtown Ashland.
“He was arrested for vandalism, not because of the content of the posters,” O’Meara said.
The recent Facebook post has sparked conversations among members about why the message was problematic for some and solutions to deal with it.
“The ‘it's okay to be white’ signs are NOT genuine, individual expressions of opinion but are part of a coordinated ‘alt-right’ strategy to deflect/distract us from challenging a system (political and economic and cultural) that marginalizes people of color,” a comment reads in response to a question why the message is harmful.
“If it’s not possible to remove the sign, we could change it to say, ‘it’s ok to be a white ally of people of color,’” another comment reads.
Residents who encounter the flyers could take it down themselves or report it to APD to investigate, O’Meara said.
— Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Jan. 4: Story updated to remove reference to Chief Tighe O'Meara saying the flyers were not hate speech; he said they are not considered a hate crime, but are hate speech.)