'OK' sign is now considered a hate symbol, Anti-Defamation League says

Dillon Thompson
·2 min read

The hand gesture meaning "OK" is now considered a hate symbol, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The sign was one of 36 new entries added to the organization's Hate Symbols Database, which also includes figures such as swastikas, the Confederate flag and depictions of burning crosses.

Symbols in the database are added by the ADL — an international Jewish non-governmental organization — to inform people of imagery "most frequently used by a variety of white supremacist groups and movements," according to the organization's website.

The "OK" sign has long held its simple, universal meaning, but the ADL noted that it has now taken on a more harmful role in certain circles.

That version of the symbol began on the website 4chan, where users joked that it was a way for white nationalists to form the letters, "W" and "P," standing for "white power." However, some white supremacists have begun using the sign sincerely.

Earlier this year, the shooter who killed 50 people during back-to-back attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, was seen making the "OK" sign during a court appearance. Those shootings, which specifically targeted Muslims worshipping at mosques, was carried out by self-described "racist" inspired by white nationalist movements online.

"At least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy," the ADL said in its report.

Another symbol added to the database is the bowl-cut hairstyle worn by Dylan Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine black congregation members at a church in a Charleston, S.C., in 2015. The ADL also added such signs as the slogan "Diversity = White Genocide" and the "Happy Merchant," an image depicting an extreme stereotype of a Jewish man rubbing his hands together.

"These are the latest calling cards of hate," Mark Pitcavage, a senior fellow in the ADL's Center on Extremism told CNN. "We pay special attention to those symbols that exhibit staying power as well as those that move from online usage into the real world."

Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism, noted that context is important when interpreting symbols that may have long-standing alternate meanings. Specifically, in the case of the "OK" sign, Segal said the organization had long been skeptical to add the gesture to the list "because 'OK' has meant just 'OK' for so long."

"At this point, there is enough of a volume of use for hateful purposes that we felt it was important to add," Segal told NBC News.