Outraged mum Tiffiney Zinger said she was looking through photos of her family’s visit to a Universal Orlando breakfast event back in March when she noticed an employee dressed as the “Despicable Me” character Gru making the hand gesture on her daughter’s shoulder.
“I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Why is this sign on my child’s shoulder?’” Zinger told USA Today.
Video shared by Zinger shows the masked employee gesturing for the little girl, who has autism, to come over for a photo at Universal’s Loews Royal Pacific Resort. Once the girl is standing in front of the employee, that individual puts their right hand on her shoulder and after a pause their index finger curls in to make a distinct circle with their thumb. The individual then holds this shape for the duration of the video.
The once innocent OK symbol has recently taken on a more sinister meaning as some use it to promote “white power,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. It started as an online hoax on the website 4chan, with hoaxers hoping that the media and liberals would overreact to something that wasn’t true. Then, “ironically some white supremacists themselves soon also participated in such trolling tactics, lending an actual credence to those who labeled the trolling gesture as racist in nature,” the ADL’s website explains.
Today the gesture is used by blatant white nationalists as a wink to likeminded people. Prominent white supremacist Faith Goldy, for example, made the sign in videos on Facebook to promote bigoted views in her home country of Canada. Those videos were later banned from Facebook for breaking the platform’s anti-hate rules.
Avowed white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who has been charged in the fatal shooting of 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, flashed the hand symbol during a court appearance in March. This made headlines one week before the Zinger photo was taken.
Zinger described the incident involving her daughter as “heartbreaking.”
“I’ve been emotionally distraught over it. I’m still pretty upset that, you know, someone felt that they needed to do this to children,” she said.
A representative for Universal Orlando confirmed the employee’s removal from the park in a statement to HuffPost on Wednesday and said the company remains in contact with the family.
“We never want our guests to experience what this family did. This is not acceptable and we are sorry ― and we are taking steps to make sure nothing like this happens again,” the company said.
Zinger and her husband Richard Zinger told USA Today that they hired an attorney after a lawyer for Universal reached out to them, although they said they’re not motivated to seek financial compensation.