Monday, July 27, 2020

Ask Mike About Racism: OK Hand Symbol

Alicia asks, What’s the deal with the ok 👌 hand sign? I am afraid to make it now, the problem is it’s kind of a knee-jerk.

Alicia, this is actually a complex question. I had to do a little research, and the best information I found was on the Anti Defamation League’s website. The ADL provides a surprisingly in-depth analysis of the OK hand symbol.

First, the OK symbol has been used in European cultures to communicate understanding, agreement or wellbeing, since the sixteen hundreds. I had no idea about that.

The same symbol also carries significance among Hindu, Buddhist and Yoga practitioners. Roughly, it translates to inner perfection.

So how did this symbol become associated with white supremacist hate?

We have to rewind the clock to 2017, when members of the 4chan site began promoting the idea that when the OK symbol is made with the right hand, it displays a “W” and “P”, which are supposed to symbolize “white power”

These 4chan members did this as a hoax. They wanted to see if they could get “liberals” and “mainstream media” to begin condemning the symbol. However, the gesture was soon adopted by right wing extremist trolls, and in a short time, it was being used by actual white supremacists, and they weren’t using it ironically.

What does that mean?

First, I’ll point out the obvious, it illustrates how some people are just plain and simply, ass-holes.

But, is it OK for you to use the OK symbol, when you want to communicate agreement, understanding or wellbeing? 

Yeah, go for it!

I would, however, caution you against posing for any pictures, especially with a group of white folks, while flashing that hand signal. Roger Stone did this with the Proud Boys, a group of right wing extremists, and it isn’t a good look. People might assume you are either racist, or racist sympathetic, like Stone is, and most decent people will assume you’re either an ass-hole, or at the very least ass-hole adjacent.