Yes, the OK sign can be used as a hate symbol. No, we don't need to stop using it altogether.
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Last spring, I watched my niece's fiance graduate from college. Standing before the camera while his name was read, he held up hand in what looked like a backwards "OK" sign.

Two thoughts flashed through my mind. 1) I knew the beautiful, heartbreaking reason why he did it. 2) People in the audience who didn't know could have made a terrible assumption about him based on that sign.

My soon-to-be-nephew had been a football player at the university. The previous year, the school's up-and-coming star quarterback, Tyler Hilinski, had taken his own life. The boys were friends, and Tyler's suicide was obviously a painful tragedy.


Tyler wore the number 3 on his jersey. That's what the three finger symbol was for—a tribute to honor a friend.

But I also knew that sign could be misconstrued. I was aware of the recent history that has now prompted the Anti-Defamation League to declare the OK sign a hate symbol. I knew that some in the audience might see this big white dude flashing what looked like an OK sign at his graduation and think he was brazenly advertising a belief in white supremacy.

Nothing could be further from the truth—the guy is justice-minded and anti-racist—but a snapshot doesn't show that.

RELATED: A boy was told to give the nazi salute in class. When others followed suit, this girl spoke up.

Therein lies the problem with the OK sign being labeled a hate symbol. At the same time, this is where we are. Because it's 2019 and nothing makes a lick of sense anymore.

The OK sign as a symbol of white supremacy started out as a joke. Apparently, some basement-dwelling 4Chan dudes with a severe lack of purpose in life decided to "troll the liberals" by making people think that the OK sign—something super commonplace and innocuous—was a symbol of white supremacy. (Seriously, people. Get a life, please.)

Then, because white supremacists are stupid, they actually started flashing it during their pity party rallies and it actually did become a symbol. The symbolism was solidified when a photo of the mosque shooter in New Zealand flashing the sign became public. One can no longer argue that a sign is a joke when someone flashes it after having committed a white supremacist massacre.

Does that mean that no one should give the OK sign anymore? Does it mean that my soon-to-be-nephew was wrong to honor his friend by flashing his jersey number? Absolutely not.

Part of the reason the 4chan jerks chose the sign was because of its ubiquity. Divers use the OK sign to indicate that they are all right. They can't use a thumbs up because that already has a different meaning. Kids have a game where they make the OK sign and if they catch someone looking at it, they get a slug in the arm. That's been going on much longer than the white supremacist symbol controversy. In basketball, when a player makes a 3-pointer, they often hold up those three fingers. Obviously, that's not a white supremacist gesture.

And then there's, you know, the American Sign Language letter "F." Clearly people are not expected to stop making these signs altogether. That would be ridiculous.

RELATED: Most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists, FBI tells lawmakers

The ADL has made it clear that context matters. This becomes even more obvious when you look at what else is on the list of hate symbols. The numbers "12" and "13" and "100%," for example. People use those numbers all the time and they don't mean anything other than what they mean. Same goes for the OK sign.

Basically, we just need to be aware of how these symbols are used by hate groups. Because the internet is what it is, we should probably let our kids know about it so that they aren't blindsided if someone misconstrues an innocent hand gesture. A group of white kids should know that if they all make the OK sign in a photo, there's a possibility that people will question whether they are advertising racism and choose their actions accordingly.

Is that fair? No. Is it reality? Yes. Will people blame the "PC police" for this? Yes. But let's put the blame where it belongs—on 4chan fools and white supremacist idiots for creating this ridiculous controversy in the first place.

Seriously, man. Get. A. Life.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less