Meet the New Official Hate Symbol: The “OK” Hand Gesture

It’s one of 36 new symbols added to the Anti-Defamation League’s database

OK Hand Gesture Symbol
The next time you see the "OK" sign, either in-person or online, think twice.
By Alex Lauer / September 28, 2019 5:00 am

It may be one of your favorite hand gestures, or even one of your favorite emojis, but this week the Anti-Defamation League officially added the “OK” gesture to its list of hate symbols.

The index-finger-to-thumb gesticulation was just one of 36 new hate symbols added to the Jewish civil rights organization’s “Hate on Display” database this Thursday, reports NPR. You may ask yourself if this is a little extreme. Isn’t it a harmless symbol that became a meme? Yes, but it’s moved beyond a joke into something much more sinister. 

“According to the website Know Your Meme, as a prank, 4chan users in 2017 launched a campaign to flood social media with posts linking the ‘OK’ hand gesture to the white power movement,” writes NPR. “Commenters on the message board appropriated images of people posing in the White House and other locations making the hand symbol as proof that it was catching on.”

In other words, people were trying to connect what used to be a harmless hand gesture to white supremacist and far right movements for fun. But unfortunately, what started as a joke has now been swept up in those racist and hateful groups. Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, gave NPR the example of the accused white supremacist Christchurch shooter “who flashed the ‘OK’ hand gesture during an initial court appearance.”

Other hate symbols added to the database include burning Neo-Nazi symbols (a reference to the KKK), the “Bowlcut” (a reference to white supremacist mass killer Dylann Roof) and the phrase “Diversity = White Genocide.”

Does this mean you can’t use the “OK” gesture in public anymore? No, but it does mean you should be aware of its potential other meaning when you see it in person and online.

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