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Family Outraged After Discovering Universal Orlando Character Made White Power Sign On 6-Year-Old’s Shoulder During Photo Op

USA Today

It was a special day on a family vacation at Universal Orlando for the Zinger family back in March. The Loews Royal Pacific Resort was doing a character breakfast, and Tiffiney Zinger’s six-year-old daughter was excited to have her picture taken with Gru and a minion from Despicable Me.

But when the family went through the photos in August in preparation for their daughter to use the vacation photos for a class project, they discovered something truly despicable.

Standing with his hands on Zinger’s daughter, who is biracial and has autism, the actor portraying Gru had flashed a White power hand signal.

For most in the United States, the hand signal in question—thumb and forefinger tips joined, with the other three fingers held in the air—meant “OK.”

But the symbol has been commodified by White nationalists in recent years to stand for “White Power”: The three aloft fingers form a W that stands for “White,” and the thumb and forefinger form a P, for “power.”

The gesture has become so common amongst various far-right, White nationalist groups that the Anti-Defamation League has recently added it to its hate symbols database.

Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at Southern Poverty Law Center, told USA Today that incidents like the Zingers’ are common amongst far-right groups as a trolling tactic, a sort of White nationalist “photobomb.”

As she explained to USA Today:

“It’s a game for them to slip their hate symbols in contexts that don’t belong.”

And, unsurprisingly, the Zingers are deeply disturbed by the incident.

In a video interview with USA Today, Mrs. Zinger called it “heartbreaking.”

Mrs. Zinger went on to say:

“I’ve been emotionally distraught about it. I’m still pretty upset that, you know, somebody felt that they needed to do this to children.”

Many White people online, though, disagreed with the Zingers’.

 

But as some were quick to point out, the plausible deniability of the symbol is part of the point.

And the story left many shocked that such a formerly innocuous symbol has now become sinister. 

And it left many others sharing the Zingers’ outrage.

As for Universal Orlando’s response, a spokesman told 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.”

As of this week, the Zingers have been told that the details of the internal proceedings at Universal are “proprietary information.” The park has offered them free tickets and a gift card.

The book Passive Aggressive Racism In The System of White Supremacy is available here and explores such “joking” or “prank” displays.

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Written by John Sundholm

John Sundholm is a writer, video producer and performer originally from Michigan, and is one of those people who says he "lived in London for a while" even though it was only six weeks for study abroad. He made Ellen DeGeneres laugh once so you should probably follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Medium, where he does a lot of yelling under the name @JohntheCraptist.