The sound of a person cracking his knuckles is almost universally annoying, but for Emmanuel Cafferty, the habit cost him his job.
He had his arm dangling from the truck window and was reportedly cracking his knuckles, unaware that a man who had been following him snapped a picture and shared it to social media in a since-deleted tweet, accusing Cafferty of making a “white power” gesture with his hand.
The gesture Cafferty was supposedly making is widely recognized as the “OK” sign, with the thumb and forefinger making a circle while splaying the remaining fingers (although the grainy photo the news outlet shared looks more like a modified rock concert gesture or Italian devil horns as his index finger was pointed outward).
But according to the Anti-Defamation League, the gesture can also be used signify “white power,” which began as a hoax but has since been legitimately co-opted.
The organization’s website stresses caution in that interpretation, however, as the gesture is “entirely innocuous and harmless” in most contexts.
Nevertheless, the photo made its way to a company supervisor who suspended Cafferty, promising to investigate the matter, but only days later he was fired.
“When my supervisor said that I was being accused of doing a white supremacist gesture, that was baffling,” Cafferty said, claiming to have no prior knowledge of the gesture’s nefarious meaning.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get over this, but to lose your dream job for playing with your fingers, that’s a hard pill to swallow,” he added.
Ironically, Cafferty is of Mexican descent and described his family as being multi-racial, so throwing “white power” signs would be absurd if the matter unfolded as he said.
“We hold all SDG&E employees to a high standard and expect them to live up to our values every day,” his company said in a statement.
“We conducted a good faith and thorough investigation that included gathering relevant information and multiple interviews, and took appropriate action.”
The man who originally shared the photo has since deleted his Twitter account and reportedly said he didn’t mean for Cafferty to get fired, saying the whole situation was “spun up” and misconstrued.
However, for anyone familiar with “cancel culture,” Cafferty losing his job is exactly what he should have expected as any slight, whether real or imagined, is enough to get someone publicly shamed or worse.
In a similar incident in December, a Naval Academy midshipman and two West Point cadets landed in hot water after flashing the same gesture on ESPN at the Army-Navy football game.
On social media, they were widely accused of promoting a white supremacist symbol.
Despite the hysteria in that situation, investigators ultimately concluded it was a “sophomoric game” known as the “circle” or “gotcha” game, where one person makes the gesture, usually below the waist, and if another person looks, he gets punched, according to the Capital Gazette.
It seems there will be no such luck for Cafferty, who was fired essentially for the crime of cracking his knuckles.
While it’s a habit that is satisfying to the doer but incredibly grating to the bystander, it certainly isn’t racist.
In both cases, lives and reputations were on the line because of the hysteria over “dog whistles” and super-secret racist code, with Cafferty apparently losing his livelihood because of it.
The fact that “cancel culture” can come for just about anyone, anytime should be enough to give folks pause about jumping to conclusions.
And motorists beware: If a finger up the nose becomes the next gesture to get someone canceled, there will be a plethora of sorry souls.
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