Making the “ok” hand symbol with your thumb and forefinger will now get you accused of racism.
CNN reported Thursday that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has added the symbol to its list of slogans and symbols used by racists. The group concedes that not everyone uses the symbol in a racist fashion, but enough people have that it can be included in its database.
CNN and the ADL acknowledge that the hand symbol’s “racism” started as a hoax on 4chan:
The OK hand gesture and its link to white nationalism began as a hoax cooked up by users of the website 4chan, who falsely linked it to white supremacy, according to the ADL.
It was meant to bait the media or people with liberal ideals to overreact, ADL experts say, and therefore look ridiculous for condemning such an innocuous sign. But in 2019, the sign was adopted by some white nationalists.
“At least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy,” the ADL posted in its report.
So, because some bad people took part in the hoax, the rest of us need to be careful when we use a common hand symbol.
“We believe law enforcement and the public needs to be fully informed about the meaning of these images, which can serve as a first warning sign to the presence of haters in a community or school,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
Other new slogans and symbols added to the ADL’s database include Dylan Roof’s haircut, a caricature of a stereotypical Jewish man rubbing his hands together (this symbolizes greed), and a 1980’s McDonald’s commercial featuring “Moon Man.” CNN reported that white supremacists have been making videos with the character with racist rap lyrics.
Also, “Diversity = White Genocide” is now on the list.
Ceding common hand gestures like the “ok” symbol to white supremacists sends its own message. It gives the racists the power to co-opt ordinary behaviors and allows the media and politicians to label innocent people as racists. Just look at what happened when a Chicago Cubs fan made the “ok” hand gesture and was deemed racist, even though the position he held his hand was actually part of a common game played by young boys. The “circle game” involves players trying to get others to look at the symbol while making it below their waist. If someone looks, they get a punch in the arm and teasing. But because the media and places like the ADL have deemed the “ok” hand symbol as racist, this Cubs fan was banned for life and branded a racist.
The media also has tried to do this with the original American flag designed by Betsy Ross. In July, Buzzfeed reported that because that version of the flag was displayed in the home of someone who belonged to a white nationalist group and by students who also displayed a campaign flag for President Donald Trump (remember, the media treats all Trump merchandise as racist symbols), then the flag is a common racist symbol now.