WALLINGFORD — Town officials are speaking out against fliers with a racial message that appeared around downtown.
According to police officials, fliers with the phrase “It’s okay to be white” were reportedly posted around lower downtown during the last two weekends.
Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni read a statement condemning the message of the fliers at the start of the council meeting Tuesday.
He said that while the phase “‘It’s okay to be white’ may not in and of itself appear to be racist in nature,” after learning that the phrase has origins in the white supremacist movement “it is easily construed to intimidate those who are not considered white.”
“We, who are Wallingford, do not support any discrimination based upon race, color, creed or national origin,” Cervoni said. “I believe that all sitting with me on this Town Council agree with this statement.”
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Wednesday that he wasn’t aware of the fliers and didn’t know Tuesday night what Cervoni was referring to in his statement.
“The town is clearly opposed to any kind of racial discrimination, statements or activity,” he said after being filled in on the incident. “There’s no place for racism. We want to be inclusive. Everybody should be comfortable being in Wallingford, or anywhere else in the United States, for that matter.”
Andy Friedland, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut office, said Wednesday that the fliers, which have cropped up in early November the past two years, appear to be part of a trolling campaign.
By saying something innocuous-sounding like “It’s okay to be white,” the flier-posters are apparently trying to create the impression that people who react negatively to the message or remove the fliers think it’s not OK to be white, Friedland said.
The ADL has documented use of the “It’s okay to be white” phrase in a song by a white supremacist band in 2001, white supremacist literature in 2005, and among Ku Klux Klan groups since 2012.
Friedland said the best way to react, and not give the flier-posters the attention they seek, is education.
“At the ADL, we’re all about education,” he said. “You risk giving them the attention they’re looking for, and we certainly don’t want to drive traffic to their websites. It’s a difficult balance, tracking and reporting use of the phrase, trying to inform the public so they know what they’re seeing and the context.”