This is what happens when we live in a society in which people are slow to think and quick to become offended. A Missouri woman recently issued an apology to a group of Poplar Bluff High School students for drumming up social media outrage against them for supposedly making a white supremacist hand gesture during a group photo.
The woman became offended after seeing a picture on social media showing 2021 graduates of her former high school flashing a hand sign she believed to be linked to white supremacists on Instagram. She reacted by calling the teens out on social media, savaging them for having the temerity to engage in such racist behavior.
But there was a problem: The kids were not flashing a white supremacist hand signal.
The Kansas City Star noted:
In the photo, the students were mimicking a hand gesture made popular by Michael Jordan after he and his Chicago Bulls twice won the NBA national title three years in a row — a three-peat.
Like Jordan, the students are holding up three fingers, palms turned inward. They were innocently celebrating the third consecutive time they had won something called the Powder Buff championships, a local whimsical volleyball tournament played by the boys instead of the girls.
After realizing she had made a mistake, the woman removed her post criticizing the kids from Facebook. In an email to The Star, she acknowledged that “the implication is that I’m partly responsible for ruining innocent young lives for forwarding that screenshot,” and that “if true I much regret it.”
The Star did not name the woman in its editorial piece to avoid repercussions against her.
It appears that the woman mistook Jordan’s hand signal for the “A-OK” sign, which, according to high-profile leftists, is supposedly a white supremacist gesture. The notion that flashing the “A-OK” sign is a symbol of racism began to be circulated after trolls began spreading the hoax on an online message board called 4Chan. The Anti-Defamation League later added the gesture to its “Hate on Display” database.
However, it is a bit odd that the woman believed the kids to be communicating a racist message when you look at the photo. Two of the students are minorities. Perhaps she believed they had internalized whiteness?
The woman’s actions could have damaged not only the reputations of the kids in the picture but also the school itself. Superintendent Scott Dill said:
It’s most unfortunate that so many are so quick to believe the very worst of one another.
The superintendent characterized the reaction as “vicious” and stating that people were “brutal” as they accused the children of being racists. He explained that parents and teachers were unable to protect the students, who “were really taken aback by the comments.”
Even though the woman took down the Facebook post alleging that the students were racists, screenshots are still being circulated, meaning that there is the possibility that it could haunt the kids later in life. In an America where statements or social media posts made as high schoolers could cost someone a job, one does not need to imagine how hurtful this could be for people who did nothing wrong.
This story is yet another situation that illustrates how destructive cancel culture has become in America. The hard left and the activist media have cultivated an environment in which people become offended at the drop of a hat. Indeed, it seems that many want to be offended so they can voice their displeasure on social media. The fact that media outlets continually peddle outrage porn to keep us angry only adds to the problem.
The question is: When will the backlash against cancel culture grow heated enough to discourage this behavior?