President Donald Trump did not get into office on his own, and the casually accepted racism that fueled his rise continues to pop up. This weekend, students at the Army and Navy Academies who’d met for their traditional football face-off flashed a hand gesture associated with white nationalism at least five times on national television. The symbol — which looks like an “Ok” sign formed with one hand — has been co-opted as an ironic rallying cry for those willing to lash out with white nationalism. Now, officials at both the Army and Navy say they’re investigating the situation.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has noted that white nationalists have used the sign “both to signal their presence to the like-minded, as well as to identify potentially sympathetic recruits among young trolling artists flashing it.” Military academy spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt shared:
‘West Point is looking into the matter. At this time we do not know the intent of the cadets.’
Meanwhile, the Naval Academy’s spokesperson Cmdr. Alana Garas added to the Associated Press:
‘We are aware and will be looking into it.’
Check out footage:
— Jerry Avenaim (@avenaim) December 14, 2019
This situation is not the first time that the symbol has been publicly employed by individuals associated with the military. The New York Times notes that the “United States Coast Guard reprimanded a service member who flashed a similar gesture in the background of a television interview on MSNBC last year” during coverage of hurricane preparations.
Pointedly enough, it’s not the first recent occasion that brazen racism in general has been associated with the same military groups either. The West Point Military Academy just recently removed a reference to a slogan associated with white nationalism that had been on the team spirit flag. It had read “G.F.B.D.” in reference to “God Forgives, Brothers Don’t.”
In this case, retired four star Army General Barry McCaffrey commented:
‘Sure hope both Service Academies rapidly get out results of their investigation into this. Reserve judgment until then. IF it was intended as a White Power symbol they should be terminated.’
Sure hope both Service Academies rapidly get out results of their investigation into this. Reserve judgment until then. IF it was intended as a White Power symbol they should be terminated. https://t.co/khTFhzNmhK
— Barry R McCaffrey (@mccaffreyr3) December 15, 2019
Some right wing internet agitators claimed that the symbols were just meant to be part of the prank-driven “circle game.” Yet, they were not displayed in a vacuum. They were displayed in a national political climate that has repeatedly and explicitly wrestled with the violence of white nationalism in the wake of Trump’s rise to power. And the symbol has been used in right-wing violence — during a court appearance, the terrorist who targeted the New Zealand Muslim community and killed some 50 people used the same symbol, and it’s not exactly as though his allegiances were in question.
Following that terrorist incident, Trump made the outrageous claim that he didn’t see white nationalism as a growing physical threat in the U.S. He actually attended the Army-Navy game this weekend, where he spoke to both teams in their locker rooms ahead of the event. He also tweeted about the game a couple of times, including a congratulations to the winner, but he’s seemingly stayed silent about the white power symbol allegations.
I will see Navy at the White House to present the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy! https://t.co/V3oAZjWqEo
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2019