The internet has a very short memory: often the same hashtags, memes and viral stories pop up again and again and again.
Because there’s millions of us online, those who might have missed a trending topic the first time it came round can breathe new life into it on its second or third go round.
And that’s part of the reason people have noticed #ItsOkayToBeWhite trending on Twitter again today, almost three years after it emerged as a tagline used by right-wing groups.
Where does it come from?
Right Wing Watch, a website that monitors right-wing internet activity run by American advocacy group People For The American Way, first reported spotting #ItsOkayToBeWhite in 2017.
Back then, the tag emerged from right-wing messaging boards on the internet, who were inspired by posters hung on Boston College campus which said things like “Don’t apologise for who you are”.
Threads on sites like 4chan — a notorious hotbed for far-right organisation — then encouraged individuals across the US to repeat the stunt.
Since then, the tag has popped up frequently both on URL and in IRL and has become symbolic of far-right white supremacist movements.
In September 2019, stickers bearing the message were plasered around the town of Perth, Scotland, where they were stuck to lampposts and drainpipes.
Police removed them at the time but individuals living there reported feeling “sickened” by their appearance.
But why has it gone viral this time?
Funny story actually… Apparently the story behind this particular go-round of the offensive tag involves… K-Pop fans?
It’s unclear who actually re-started the hashtag; there’s disagreement as to whether 4Chan trolls deliberately planted it among K-Pop stans or if K-Pop stans started using it in reference to a disagreement about ‘white-washing’ stars of the genre.
An investigation by Twitter user @conspirator0 suggests the hashtag gained attention following the 27 December, after being used by someone tweeting under the handle @UpAndOv3r, in a deliberate bid to get it trending.
Their data alleges that K-Pop fan accounts have helped amplify the tag by pushing back against it — although others suggest this is because the K-Pop stans have been tricked into thinking it’s referencing another subject.
Then of course, #ItsOkayToBeWhite reached mainstream Twitter, where it took on a new lease of life, thanks to both horrified people using it in order to denounce it and right-wing 'personalities' like Ian Miles Cheong performatively mocking them in turn (for attention, it’s always for attention).
And that’s how it’s back at the top of trending lists.
What can we learn from this? If you give a fire oxygen it will continue to burn. And that harnessing the power of K-Pop stans is a truly dangerous force.