Bernstein: Fan Incident Should Make Us More Aware

The Cubs intend to ban a fan who flashed a hand gesture associated with racism.

Dan Bernstein
May 08, 2019 - 2:02 pm
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(670 The Score) ​​​The Cubs planning to ban the troglodyte who made a "white power" sign behind broadcaster Doug Glanville's on-air report during the game Tuesday night is the obvious and correct move to make. And should his identity become known, any who might interact with him will now understand better who he really is.

This is also an opportunity for all of us to be more aware than before of who's using this sign and how and in the process shine the powerful disinfectant of sunlight into some dark and fetid places. Just knowing what's going on out there is a big part of the battle.

The Cubs will be taking action against the fan based on their investigation, president of business operations Crane Kenney said on 670 The Score on Wednesday, one that included an examination of the offender's social media history to determine intent.

"We reached the conclusion that it's more likely than not that this person was using that hand signal as a racist way of interfering with everyone's enjoyment of the game," Kenney said. "That investigation has almost reached its conclusion."

Many of us have spent the better part of the morning learning about the creation, evolution and application of the common "OK" gesture of thumb/index finger circle and three splayed fingers as a sign of white supremacy. There are many for whom this is entirely new, the co-opting of such a ubiquitous and previously benign display to mean something hideous, and some of us understood it on some level as just a twisted false-flag troll meme that bubbled up from the swamp of 4chan. But what has happened is clear -- it's indeed a recognized expression of racism, now.

That doesn't mean we didn't use it for the stupid schoolyard game of made-you-look or for any other previous purpose, whether as the equivalent of a thumbs-up response or to demonstrate a change-up grip. It just means we must all understand that it also is used otherwise. In fact, it was adopted by these corners of the far right for just that reason, the plausible deniability built in, allowing those engaging in nefarious coded messaging to claim otherwise when confronted.

The New Zealand mosque mass murderer made the very same gesture at his court appearance. The Baraboo, Wisconsin high school photo of white, male students giving the Nazi salute also included one person in front using the "OK" sign as a substitute.

Context is important in any evaluation, according to the website of the Anti-Defamation League.

While noting the clear and innocuous history of the sign, it follows the genesis of its use as a meme but then states, "By 2019, 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."

And that appears to be the case with this Cubs fan, as Kenney made clear.

There are almost no positives to be taken from something like this, except an opportunity to both identify such miscreants among us and better understand how they're subverting communication to represent themselves in plain sight. Instead of making excuses for the behavior or railing fearfully against the boogeyman of "political correctness" as a proxy for a world changing inexorably for the benefit of the marginalized, we instead have a responsibility to to open our eyes and ears to what is really happening.

Call it out and stand up to it.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​