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A Universal Studios employee dressed as a character from “Despicable Me” was fired after outraged parents said the employee displayed a racist, hate symbol in a video with their 6-year-old, bi-racial daughter.

The girl, her brother and parents visited a breakfast event at the Florida amusement park last March. In the photo, the character formed an upside-down “OK” symbol with his fingers on the girl’s shoulders, a gesture now identified as a hate symbol in some circles.

The girl’s parents, Richard and Tiffiney Zinger, said they didn’t notice the hateful symbol until six months later in August, when they were combing through vacation photos.

 

Once they noticed it however, they were horrified.

“I’ve been emotionally distraught about it. I’m still pretty upset that someone felt they needed to do this to children,” Tiffiney Zinger said. “It can cause emotional stress on my child and her development.”

 

However, one major detail Mr. and Mrs. Zinger seemed to have completely missed in the photo is their 2-year-old son apparently making the same gesture. Take a look and see what you think.

Of course, no one is bringing this up.

In a case of interesting timing to say the least, the Anti-Defamation League added the “ok symbol” to its database of hate symbols on September 26th, saying the hand gesture was being used as a “sincere gesture of white supremacy.”

Just one week later, the mainstream media picked up this story about the employee being fired for making the gesture.

 

Hmm.

Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at Southern Poverty Law Center, admits context is key and it’s difficult to pinpoint a hate symbol if there isn’t information about the person who’s doing it.

Well of course the actor is hateful. After all, he was in a costume dressed as the super villain from a film called “Despicable Me.” How much more obvious can you get?

Except… maybe the guy in the suit was simply making a gesture of “ok,” we’re ready for the picture. Or had a nervous twitch, an itch or an annoying hangnail. And on one is questioning what was on the two-year-old’s mind —or his finger — when he made that gesture.

 

A source for Universal Studios, Tom Schroder, initially declined to comment on the matter, but then issued a statement to USA Today:

“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. We can’t discuss specifics about this incident, but we can confirm that the actor no longer works here. We remain in contact with the family and will work with them privately to make this right.”

 

Richard and Tiffiney Zinger said they’re not motivated to seek financial compensation, but admitted they hired an attorney after a corporate lawyer for Universal reached out to them.

“I want to cause change,” Tiffiney Zinger said. “I hope this doesn’t happen to another family again, and I pray that this doesn’t happen to another kid.”

Just interesting timing. Six months after the fact, a family discovers what they interpret as a hate gesture in a family video. About four weeks after that, the Anti-Defamation League adds the gesture to its database of hate symbols. And a week after that, stories emerge in the mainstream media about the image, and a Universal Studios employee gets canned.

 

Funny how things work out.

 

 

 

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