Late last Wednesday morning, faculty discovered that someone had placed a large sticker which read “it’s okay to be white” on psychology instructor Charles Jeffreys’ office window, obscuring a poster that claims composer Ludwig van Beethoven was of African ancestry. The poster is mounted behind the widow’s glass and was not damaged. Jeffreys, who is a person of color, did not see the defacement before it was removed.
The faculty member who discovered the sticker informed the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Division office, located near Jeffreys’ office on the fourth floor of the Broadway Edison building. An administrative assistant reported the incident to Hao Hua of Public Safety, who checked to be sure there were no other stickers posted on campus and contacted campus custodial services to have the sticker removed.
According to Hua, there are no cameras in the area and no suspects or further reports.
After ensuring the incident was documented, Kate Krieg, associate dean of the division, partially removed the sticker. “After our office reported the bias incident I saw that the sticker had not yet been removed. Since I was sure it had been documented, including a photo, I was disturbed by the fact that it was still up. The sticker was a violation of district policy 419 and bias-based vandalism, so yes, I did attempt to remove it,” Krieg said in an email.
At 5:00 PM, a custodian removed the remains of the sticker.
The sticker’s design and slogan match those of an alt-right internet campaign in early November of last year. According to a Washington Post article and a Know Your Meme article, members of 4chan coordinated the campaign to prove the media would portray the slogan as racist in spite of its seemingly innocuous content, thus swaying neutral observers to the alt-right.
The posters appeared on campuses around the country, including Harvard University, and Washington State University, and received backlash and condemnation.
This is not the first time Jeffreys’ poster has been defaced. “This happened before a few years ago; they marked up the window,” Jeffreys said. Someone had written “Malcolm X was white” on the glass. “At least they were polite enough to put something on that was easy to take off,” he said of the sticker.
Jeffreys has had the poster in his window since 1989, around the time he began teaching at Seattle Central.
“People always ask, ‘is this a joke?’,” he said. “That’s why I got the books and show them to them now.” Jeffreys has two biographies of Beethoven that include descriptions of Beethoven that describe him has having a “dark” or “blackish-brown” complexion.
Jeffreys said he has sympathy for the individual who placed the sticker. “You’ve grown up in an environment where you see yourself as kind of a god or the closest thing to god. And then you see information like this, and of course it’s gonna upset you.”
Updated 3/21/18: added wording to make it unambiguous that Jeffreys was not the faculty member who reported the incident and added that Jeffreys is a person of color.