Sorry Buckwheat, “Otay” is no longer Okay


What’s on my mind? Thanks for asking. I’ll tell you. It’s fear. The fear I will make a mistake and be mistaken for a white-supremacist.

Why? Well, in my mind, one of the worst and most insulting things I could ever be accused of being is a racist. Yet, when I was a girl, we would give the “a-ok” sign after wiping out our bikes or seeing a cool car driving by. It was a hand-sign that said, “all’s well” or “I approve of you”. Now that hand sign is being registered in a database of white supremacist look-fors, along with bowl-cut hairstyles and certain sunglass styles.

Good lord. It used to be easy for good, caring, tolerant, inclusive people to avoid being mistaken for a white-supremacist – just be your good self and don’t wear a pillowcase on your head and don’t get a tattoo of a swastika. It used to be easy to find white-supremacists too, because they didn’t suffer the consequences they would in present-day society. Now, they have to be more covert – use hand signs and sunglasses to identify each other. Good and evil is getting nebulous, hazy, foggy, easy to accuse innocents, easy to miss those who should be accused. It’s all blending in. But that is an unfortunate result of a good thing.

It’s proof those evil blackhearts have to hide. But it also leads to false accusations of racism, which I’ve experienced after determining a student plagiarised an essay, and after encouraging the progressive discipline of a student who was destroying school climate and bullying others, and after… well you get the picture. The r-word is easy to toss around, for some. And, I’m white and being white and Christian comes with the baggage of historical blame and false accusations often based on my skin colour.

Even writing this creates a niggling fear in the back of my skull that my school board will charge me, fire me, strip me of my teaching certification for daring to quote “Buckwheat”.

And, so what? Is my fear or status or life experiences equal to the fear of those targeted by “a-ok” hand-sign-appropriators? Of course not. Let’s not even go there.

I’m just here to repeat a little advice to avoid a persecution stampede of every kind, person-loving, inclusive, caring, human-being over 50 who might inadvertently ask the hairdresser to gift their grandchild with a classic bowl-cut and then give the a-ok hand sign approval. Which I absolutely won’t be doing, EVER, right after I sort through my son’s sunglass collection.

But my Dad might, my neighbour might, my 99-year-old auntie might have, those who don’t know might. So, in their defence, which is in the defence of tolerance and inclusion, remember this…

Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said CONTEXT is key to interpreting whether an “OK” symbol is hateful or harmless. He said the ADL had been reluctant to add it to the database “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 said.

Stigma will kill the “a-ok”. Sign it out of your repertoire now. Come up with something new. Maybe one that says “F-U supremacists, quit stealing our hand signs!” and of course, one that says, “Quit being an evil dickwad, you’re giving the rest of us white-folks a bad name” and a hand sign for “I will advocate to incarcerate, suspend or otherwise kick your ass if I ever catch you hurting anyone”.

Good people…

Keep up the good fight, but don’t take out the good guy. We need all the good guys we can get, even those innocent kind-hearted folk who happen to be white men, whom society loves to target–light coloured men like the men I am married to, daughter of, sister of, mother to, niece of, aunt to, friends of and proud descendant of. These men who are on the good side, no matter what their colour–if they give the “a-ok” sign, consider context first, not skin, not gender, but CONTEXT.

And for those of us who feel deeply attached to the “a-ok” hand sign? If you could wave your hand and help identify white-supremacists, would you? If so, you won’t mind giving up the “a-ok” sign for a good cause.

Let’s start a new trend. Let’s create some new hand signs.

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