A Universal Orlando actor dressed as the character Gru in the “Despicable Me” films was fired last week for making a hand gesture used by white supremacists and other extremists and considered a symbol of hatred.
The gesture in question was used during a photo with a black child At the park. The park employee made a reverse OK gesture with his fingers. The three fingers supposedly represent “w” for white and the OK circle for the top of the “p” for power. THE The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently added the symbol to its database of hate symbols..
The topic has surfaced in a recent SHRM Connect thread. A human resources professional was on the phone when she was interrupted by an employee with a message. The human resources professional made an OK gesture to indicate that she had heard the employee, without realizing that this gesture could be considered racist. The employee filed a complaint with the boss of the human resources professional.
Context matters to determine racist intent, a newspaper editorial noted that it was bombarded with angry reactions after publishing a photo of a fourth grader, among a group of classmates, dressed as President Trump and sporting the OK symbol.
“The OK hand gesture is and is not a symbol of white power, depending on the intent of the person using it,” the editor emphasized, quoting the ADL:
“Due to the traditional meaning of the ‘ok’ hand gesture, as well as other usages unrelated to white supremacy, special care must be taken not to jump to conclusions about the intent of someone who used this gesture.”
Symbols and words change meaning over the ages and sometimes take on racist connotations. In some cases they have different meanings depending on culture or geographic region – important distinctions for those traveling internationally. In France, the OK gesture has long been considered an insult, indicating that the person it is addressed to is a “zero” or worthless. It is also considered insulting in Greece, Italy and Turkey.
It is up to employers to be aware of cultural changes so they can create welcoming work cultures and guard against hostile environments. SHRM online has collected the following articles around this topic.
“OK” hand gesture added to hate symbol database
The OK hand gesture is among 36 new entries in a Jewish civil rights group’s online database of hate symbols used by white supremacists and other far-right extremists.
The Anti-Defamation League added the symbols to its “Hate Exposed” online database, which already includes burning crosses, Ku Klux Klan robes, the swastika and many other of the most notorious and popular symbols. more manifest racism and anti-Semitism.
Subtle racism and the problems it poses
When some people hear the word “racism,” the subtle forms of bigotry known as racial microaggressions don’t come to mind. Instead, they imagine a man with a white hood or a burning cross on a lawn.
In reality, most people of color will never meet a Klan member or be the victim of a lynching. Members of racial minority groups are much more likely to experience subtle racism, also known as everyday racism, covert racism, or racial microaggressions.
(SHRM Members Only Toolkit: Building a diversity initiative from scratch)
Defending Discrimination and Racism in the Workplace
How will you speak out in the face of racism and discrimination?
Is there a “right way” to respond to discrimination, racism, and racist comments in the office? As a leader, you must carefully examine the impact of racism within your organization. How you communicate about discrimination will define your impact as a leader…and as a human being.
Despite legal protections, most workers who face discrimination are left to fend for themselves
Ron Law walked into the break room at work one morning and found a noose hanging from the ceiling. It was one of eight nooses that black employees said they discovered at the Austal USA shipyard, according to court filings.
They were part of a crippling trend, workers said. But a year after seeking help from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, they gave up waiting for help from the EEOC.
Actions to Avoid in Cross-Cultural Affairs: In other words, “Keep your fingers to yourself!” »
Gestures are one of the first things that come to mind that can cause a major cultural faux pas. They can quickly sabotage anyone, including the most savvy professionals.