During a televised broadcast of the annual Army-Navy game this year, several academy students caused an online uproar by flashing the "ok" hand symbol that has come to represent "White Power" in recent years.
Now, after intense backlash attacking the West Point cadets and Navy midshipmen, officials at West Point are investigating the incident.
Stills and video were shared online.
@KwikWarren @WestPoint_USMA https://t.co/9u0s3Sgio0— Unfrozen Caveman Congressperson (@Unfrozen Caveman Congressperson) 1576348910.0
Lt. Col. Chris Ophardt of West Point told The Wall Street Journal:
"We're looking into it. I don't know what their intention is."
Please someone tell me I didn’t see what I thought I just saw? #ArmyNavy #ESPN white power sign? https://t.co/QxL7dNmNKN— NiniMusic (@NiniMusic) 1576339666.0
The "white power" symbol began as a joke on the anonymous message board 4chan. Basically, to troll liberals, people on the site began spreading the idea that the "ok" sign, which forms the shapes of a W and P, is actually a secret white supremacist symbol.
If you're not sure what the difference is between sincerely and ironically displaying a "white power" gesture, then you see the problem. If one were to throw up the Nazi salute on live television, they can claim to be doing so as a joke, but the effect the gesture has on people remains the same.
The "Ok" hand symbol was added to The Anti-Defamation League's list of hate symbols last year, and is now being used as a sincere gesture among many white supremacists.
Many online, however, believe the cadets were simply playing the "circle game," in which the "ok" gesture, when held below the waist, means whoever looked at the gesture will receive a punch in the arm.
It's very possible 4chan chose this gesture because of its use in games such as this—all the better for making people seem paranoid and unreasonable.
Circle game. If that’s not the circle game, I’ll tweet Marvel > DC, burn my Grizzlies hat, and change my Twitter… https://t.co/39C1JyCaxU— David French (@David French) 1576373879.0
Anyone who thinks that’s not circle game has never known anyone in the military.— Amelia (@Amelia) 1576374828.0
Despite the fact that none of the circles seen on camera were held below the waist, many people believe the multiple cadets flashing the gesture were all completely ignorant as to its well-known double meaning and simply playing a game.
Because it's not like that information has been everywhere.
I have a hand gesture for the cadets who flashed the #whitepower sign today, if they'd like it.— John Pavlovitz (@John Pavlovitz) 1576370920.0
I’m not into politics at all but for the love of God this isn’t a white power sign https://t.co/089C0Xah5f— Austin B (@Austin B) 1576439644.0
As always, the double standards at play are staggering.
Imagine the uproar if a group of black Midshipmen were throwing up gang signs and we’re gonna need that same energy… https://t.co/HeMZCCsOzI— Corey Richardson (@Corey Richardson) 1576355326.0
As an American, As a Navy Dad, As a decent human being... ...you hate to see racist West Point cadets emboldened b… https://t.co/sZh9XIQ3vH— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@BrooklynDad_Defiant!) 1576364250.0
Last year, a Coast Guard midshipman was reprimanded for flashing the hand symbol in the background of yet another television broadcast.
Army cadet who flashed white power sign on TV should be immediately discharged from the corps. #ArmyNavyGame https://t.co/82TEkAHZHq— Jeff Stein (@Jeff Stein) 1576360669.0
Many on the internet are rightfully upset re what appears to be both Cadets & Midshipmen flashing white power signs… https://t.co/lzfYXu9hlZ— Mark Hertling (@Mark Hertling) 1576365950.0
Many are calling for disciplinary action against the cadets involved.
Hideous. White power signs. And this, while in uniform and standing next to POC classmates. @WestPoint_USMA needs t… https://t.co/V1s0VxBXPC— Kelli Blair Swan (@Kelli Blair Swan) 1576353507.0
Superintendents of @WestPoint_USMA and @navalacademy, Are you going to discipline the cadets & midshipmen who flas… https://t.co/L6bAIMJSPP— David Cay Johnston (@David Cay Johnston) 1576369156.0
There is no such thing as a joking hate symbol in real life, just like it's never ok to use a racial slur, even in a joke.
It's important that we all remember the effect gestures of hate can have on people. Even if they're done in jest, they can act as a reminder of a person's lower social status, or the danger they've faced because of who they are, and mock them for it.