Anti-Defamation League labels ‘OK’ symbol a hate gesture

Making the hand sign for ‘OK’ could mean that all is well. It could also mean white power, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL, a Jewish civil rights organization, announced yesterday that it was adding the OK, or okay, gesture to its Hate Symbols Database. The symbol, it says, became associated with white power as a result of a hoax by people on 4chan who falsely claimed that it stood for “wp” or “white power.”

“…[T]he hoax was so successful the symbol became a popular trolling tactic on the part of right-leaning individuals, who would often post photos to social media of themselves posing while making the ‘okay’ gesture,” ADL reports. They were so successful that OK signs have now become legitimately associated with white supremacy. The alleged Christchurch mosque mass shooter flashed it in court soon after his arrest.

The organization cautioned that it is important to consider context when evaluating the gesture, and note that the “overwhelming” majority who flash ‘OK’ mean just that.

“Because of the traditional meaning of the ‘okay’ hand gesture, as well as other usages unrelated to white supremacy, particular care must be taken not to jump to conclusions about the intent behind someone who has used the gesture,” the ADL says.

Reactions to the announcement ran the gamut from mockery to alarm and indifference. (But mostly mockery.)

“You have achieved Onion status. Nice work,” said one man. “I caught myself using it. And I’m like I can’t do that anymore. And it really bothers me that it has been co-opted. I do the peace sign now,” added another. Yet another wondered, “Are we going to let hate groups hijack our language and gestures?”

Conservative media are definitely not okay with it.

The Daily Wire wailed, “[ADL] cedes ‘OK’ hand gesture to white supremacists.”

A hoax turned an innocent and useful hand gesture used without a second thought into a symbol of white supremacism. If you allow this, then you’re only encouraging the hoaxers to move on to more symbols,” said the Washington Examiner.

The OK symbol joins mass shooter Dylann Roof’s bowl haircut, Pepe the Frog, and a slew of numbers and other hand gestures like 23 and 88 on the ADL’s list of hate symbols.

READ MORE:

Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.