Be careful, comrade, you when let everyone know all is OK. Or when you stretch your hand. Or flash your winnings.
Because you are signaling (if you’re reading this aloud to someone, do so in a whisper) — you are signaling white supremacy.
Yes, you. White. Supremacy.
How, you ask? It happens when you touch your forefinger to your thumb to make what is commonly known as the “OK” sign.
That’s what a 17-year-old Hamilton, Ontario, girl reportedly did in a picture she posted on social media when she was excited to get a high school co-op position at Juravinski Hospital.
The hospital found out and allegedly fired her from her co-op placement.
“It wasn’t meant to be racist and it wouldn’t happen again,” Megan Breeze told the Hamilton Spectator. “I just thought it means ‘OK.’ Like a thumbs up sign.”
Hamilton Health Services said a community member noticed the photo and made a tip accusing Breeze of racism.
“We informed the school board when we were made aware of the posts in early October,” HHS spokesperson Wendy Stewart. “As the pictures in the posts were taken at HHS sites, we acted decisively to emphasize that we expect all persons who come to our sites, regardless of whether they are an employee, patient, visitor or vendor to behave in a manner that ensures everyone at HHS feels respected, safe and welcome.”
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board spokesperson Shawn McKillop said the details were “confidential.”
“A community member noticed an unacceptable symbol in a social media post and reported it to HWDSB and program partner, Hamilton Health Sciences,” McKillop said.
“The symbol, which can be interpreted as promoting hate, does not align with HWDSB’s commitment to equity and inclusion. Symbols of hate that promote racism or white supremacy ideology are not tolerated in HWDSB or anywhere in our community. The image was immediately taken down.”
Ah, Megan, you’ve been caught in a hoax. A costly hoax, to be sure, and, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, one that, like your experience, is not funny.
“The social-media-driven controversy over the meaning of the well-known hand sign has arisen in part as the result of a deliberate hoax concocted on the internet message board 4chan, which in addition to its well-earned reputation as a gateway to the racist ‘alt-right’ is perhaps more broadly known as the home of trolling culture,” the SPLC website said.
“[W]hat it’s about most of the time is a deliberate attempt to ‘trigger liberals’ into overreacting to a gesture so widely used that virtually anyone has plausible deniability built into their use of it in the first place.”
Yet, the SPLC explained, real white supremacists also use it to signal to each other.
How to tell the difference? It’s the smirk, SPLC says. “The smirk gives away the proper answer: You’re being trolled.”
But that doesn’t help Breeze, who said she simply used it as an OK sign and lost her co-op post as a result.
There was a worse fate for Emmanuel Cafferty in 2020.
He lost his job at San Diego Gas & Electric because, near a Black Lives Matter rally, his fingers supposedly telegraphed white supremacy as they were dangling from a truck window and were photographed, according to KNSD-TV.
Cafferty said it was a misunderstanding, and he was cracking his knuckles when an erratic driver took a photo of him.
Thankfully, lest we get the vapors, KNSD blurred the picture of his offending fingers.
Earlier this year, there was “Jeopardy” contestant Kelly Donahue, who described himself as “truly horrified” when his televised display of three fingers to symbolize his third time winning was interpreted as sinister racism, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
And in January, Kyle Rittenhouse flashing what appeared to be an “OK” sign in a bar, in the company of what WBBM-TV described as young men serenading him with a right-wing extremist-based song, prompted a hearing to revoke his bail.
What began as an apparent hoax to rattle leftists has turned sour. It may be because leftists as a rule fail to have a sense of humor. Remember a basic phrase that reflects their worldview: “That’s not funny.”
And while you may have a good laugh, be careful how you let anybody know that you think things are OK.
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