The gesture, thumb and forefinger put together to form a circle, has long been used to signal “all is well”, or okay. But now, in some circumstances, it has a much more diabolical meaning.
Thus, there was an investigation to determine if anything sinister was afoot with these cadets and midshipmen. It turned out those involved were merely engaging in the “circle game. That’s when someone forms an "OK" with their hand below their waist to trick a second person into looking at it. If the second person is caught looking at the hand, they get punched by the person who made the gesture.
In other words, those cadets were just being stupid, not racist.
The OK gesture has been used for centuries, even once as part of a political campaign for Martin Van Buren. He was from Kinderhook, NY, and adopted the moniker “Old Kinderhook” to claim he is OK. The gesture obviously worked because he won the presidential election.
How did an innocent centuries old gesture become a symbol of white power?
It first began as a hoax meant to “trigger Liberals”, then evolved into a white supremacist’s gesture adopted by the alt-right 4chan website to represent “O KKK”. Now, its been wholly adopted by white supremacists, thus resulting in the cadets being caught up in the post-game controversy.
This is not the first time a symbol has been altered to fit diabolical needs.
The swastika, symbol of Nazism, dates back to ancient times. It was originally a Sanskrit symbol meaning “good fortune”. It’s evil intent was only presented when the Nazis adopted this as their symbol. Now, it is forever associated with evil intent and has become a leading symbol of anti-Semitism.
During World War II, the extension of the first two fingers to form a V became the famous “V for Victory” gesture popularized by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. During the 1960s, hippies adopted these gesture to mean “Peace”. It was the defiant gesture Richard Nixon used as he left the White House for the last time following his resignation.
Even the cross, a symbol of Christianity, had earlier meanings. The earliest documentation of the cross was its use as a pagan symbol in ancient Egypt. Crosses were found by explorers in New World settlements, indicating, incorrectly, that Jesus had visited there. It wasn’t until 600 years after the death of Jesus that the Roman Catholic Church adopted the cross as its symbol, however the cross’ presence in ancient civilizations remains a mystery.
Even the revered Jewish Star of David became a symbol of hate and derision as Nazi Germany used this to denote undesirables who were murdered by the millions during the Holocaust.
While some symbols and gestures are universal, there are others that have quite different meanings in other parts of the world. An innocent gesture in one country could be highly offensive in another. As gestures evolve to mean different things, it’s difficult to know if you are offending someone.
Maybe we should just keep our hands in our pockets…or would someone take offense to that?