Two weeks ago, hundreds of Santa Cruz residents gathered on Pacific Avenue for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, united under the slogan “Justice. Equality. Love.” It was just a few days later that a very different type of sign started to show up around town again—the ones saying “It’s Okay to Be White.”
If the phrase at first sounds truly bland, that’s on purpose. Like grown adults flashing the “OK” hand symbol in photos and the online cult of “Pepe the Frog,” the “It’s OK to Be White” (IOTBY) meme was spawned by message board site 4chan last year as an alt-right dogwhistle campaign to convince people irritated by identity politics “that leftists and journalists hate white people, so they turn on them,” as 4chaners put it.
IOTBW signs were first reported on a Martin Luther King Jr. statue at Cabrillo College last year, after which the school sent a message to students saying the signs had been removed to “tamp down this act of micro-aggression against our students… another disturbing example of the divisive climate that our culture faces right now.” Three months ago, Reddit commenters on a UCSC thread wrote that they had also received an email from the school after seeing “It’s OK to be White” drawn in chalk on campus, along with posters saying, “We Built This Country … Don’t Apologize for Your Heritage” and “Be Proud of Who You Are.”
In the meantime, similar IOTBW signs have been photographed at high schools and colleges in several other states across the country. The slogan, which the Anti-Defamation League reports has a long history of use among U.S. white supremacy groups, has also gained global political traction. Last fall, the Australian Senate almost passed a motion to affirm that “it’s OK to be white,” before quickly reversing course. (Here’s where we pause to pour one out for the Internet-literate interns, upon which democracy’s institutions now somehow rest.)
In Santa Cruz, the late January re-emergence of IOTBW signs, which were photographed near the wharf and the downtown library, sent to GT and posted on social media, serve as a timely reminder. Even in a place where pussy hats and “Resist” paraphernalia have become the post-Trump norm, you never know where the next front line will emerge in an increasingly bizarre culture war.
BIKE SAFETY FIRST
News that Santa Cruz’s crime rate had dropped was not news to Nuz.
Violent crime was down 4 percent last year, and property crime decreased 21 percent compared to 2017, which is great. Those numbers are from the Santa Cruz Police Department’s annual Unified Crime Report submitted to the FBI—though the data did include blemish: arson was up 77 percent. Still, overall crime in Santa Cruz dropped 5 percent.
It’s a start for our relatively high-crime area. But the original clue that crime was ticking down came earlier last month. That’s when the Sentinel reported that safety-oriented advocacy group Santa Cruz Neighbors was setting off the alarm bells about the latest threat to our town: the wildly popular electric shared Jump bikes that are available for rent around the city, of course.
Um, OK. We have some questions for these “neighbors.” First of all, you wheelie spoke out on this? What’s the cycle-ology behind this stance?
Seriously, though, let’s be clear: Nuz takes no pleasure in seeing helmet-less 17-year-olds ride against the flow of traffic with friends on the handlebars like second-rate bozos ready to flunk out of clown school. But lousy bike riding was already at pandemic proportions, regardless of what some kids with their first credit cards have started doing when they get out of class.
Consider this a call to action, people of Santa Cruz: Together we can find more pressing items to complain about. Like, maybe, the surge in people setting buildings on fire?