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What is the reality of White Power Hand Gesture: US military opens investigation

The US Naval Academy and US Military Academy are investigating whether White Power hand gesture flashed by a midshipman and many cadets during a TV broadcast Saturday was meant to be a sign for “White Power”. The scenery occurred during ESPN’s telecast of “College GameDay”, the sports network’s pregame show for college soccer, before the annual Army-Navy football game.

News Key Points:

  • West Point and Annapolis are investigating the White Power hand signs at Saturday’s game
  • Several cadets and midshipmen were seen making the ‘OK’ hand symbol
  • Once innocuous, the hand sign has been appropriated by racist provocateurs 

White Power Hand Gesture News

The US Naval Academy and US Military Academy are investigating whether White Power hand gesture flashed by a midshipman and many cadets during a TV broadcast Saturday was meant to be a sign for “White Power”. The scenery occurred during ESPN’s telecast of “College GameDay”, the sports network’s pregame show for college soccer, before the annual Army-Navy football game.

While ESPN reporter Rece Davis was doing a live segment from the sidelines, several Army cadets and a Navy midshipman were seen flashing the “OK” hand gesture in the background. The symbol has been co-opted by white supremacists recently and is sometimes used to convey the sentiment “white power,” due to the fingers forming the general shape of the letters “w” and “p,” according to an explanation by the Anti-Defamation League. The use of the gesture as a racist message originally started as a hoax, but has since been adopted in earnest by actual white supremacists and members of the so-called “alt-right.”

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“U.S. Naval Academy officials have appointed a preliminary inquiry officer to conduct an internal investigation into the hand gestures made during the ESPN ‘College GameDay’ broadcast prior to [Saturday’s] Army-Navy game”, Naval Academy spokesperson Commander Alana F. Garas asserted in a statement to CBS News.

The United States Military Academy has also launched an investigation into “a few Cadets,” who were also seen making the gesture during Davis’ report, “to determine if administrative actions will be required”.

While the gesture can be used to signal a racist message, it also has more benign interpretations. Aside from meaning “OK,” the gesture is also sometimes used as a part of the “circle game” where the hand sign is made below someone’s waist and — if another person looks at it — the person making the symbol gets to punch whoever looks.

A Cubs fan in May was permanently banned from Wrigley Field following a similar incident.

How the White Hand ‘OK’ sign came to be associated with White Supremacy

The historic hand sign for OK – touching the forefinger to thumb with other three fingers raised – is a formerly innocent symbol that has recently been co-opted by the far right.

The symbol’s co-option by racists began as a joke on far-right messaging site 4Chan – where users took an innocent gesture and pretended there was a hidden meaning behind it, hoping to trick left-leaning people into outrage.

After the termination of the joke by far-right extremists, some people concluded it has changed its meaning.

Brenton Tarrant
Brenton Tarrant

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is now sometimes associated with white supremacy despite its usually innocent meaning. Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man arrested for killing 51 people at mosques in New Zealand earlier this year, is seen right making the gesture in court in March.

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