Maine Firefighter’s Hand Gesture Sparks Racism Claims
Over the last few years, people have become increasingly divided over what is considered to be politically correct and incorrect. Racist and not racist. Bigoted and not bigoted. The list goes on and on. The extreme on one side tends to be more sensitive to these issues and the extreme on the other side, less sensitive.
Back in 2017, a group of users on the website 4chan decided to troll the more sensitive side by creating a false symbol of white supremacy, the "okay" hand gesture, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The thought behind the hoax was that people would condemn those who innocently made the symbol and then they would mock them for their faux outrage.
The gesture grew in popularity in the world of trolling but eventually, the gesture was picked up and used by some white supremacists such as Brenton Tarrant, the individual charged in the 2019 shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Still, most people don't even know of the racist connotations of the symbol outside of the internet and, unfortunately, many people have found themselves under public scrutiny for what they thought was an innocent hand gesture that simply means "okay". This, of course, is just part of what the 4chan users predicted would happen.
The latest target was a firefighter in Waterville, Maine. In a now-removed Facebook photo, one of the firefighters was making that "okay" hand gesture. The photo was reported to the department noting the "offensive" hand gesture. So, they investigated.
Fire Chief Shawn J. Esler released a press release today regarding the photo. It was found that the firefighter in question had actually suffered a hand injury during training earlier in the day. The injury was minor and the firefighter didn't report it to his superiors despite that being protocol.
Others in the photo were interviewed and the investigation found that there was no racist intent with the gesture. It was simply a misunderstanding and injury.
So, where do we draw the line? How do we condemn true racism without muddying the waters with false accusations and knee-jerk reactions? In my personal opinion, perhaps we need to take a step back in the world of social media and instant gratification. Before reacting take an extra moment or two to think before hitting reply. If you're unsure about something. ask. Not everything is black in white. In fact, most things aren't. In a world of grey take that extra second. Otherwise, you're feeding the trolls and who wants that?