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St. Luke’s to take action after worker displays hand gesture associated with white supremacy in photo

St Lukes logo
St Lukes logo

Idaho’s largest health system says it is investigating and “will take appropriate actions” after a St. Luke’s Magic Valley medical team member was shown in a photo on St. Luke’s social media, displaying a hand gesture associated with white supremacy.

The photo accompanied a post on St. Luke’s official social media, announcing a new piece of equipment for cardiovascular procedures at the St. Luke’s hospital in Twin Falls. The post has been removed from St. Luke’s social media.

The man displaying the hand gesture is wearing scrubs and a surgical mask, as are others in the photo. Others are giving a thumbs up.

The gesture is an upside-down version of the OK hand symbol. The thumb and pointer finger make a circle, and the other three fingers are spread out.

It was initially promoted online by an internet forum whose members wanted to trick others into believing it was being used as a hate symbol; over time, it has been adopted by white supremacy and extremist groups, as well as attention-seekers, while still retaining non-racist meanings.

The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that monitors hate, antisemitism and civil rights abuses, notes that “particular caution must be used when evaluating this symbol” because it has several meanings.

That advice is echoed by the national association of human resources professionals, who are responsible for ensuring workplaces comply with laws and ethical standards.

“It is incumbent upon employers to be aware of cultural changes so they can create welcoming work cultures and guard against hostile environments,” says an article by the Society for Human Resource Management about the hand gesture.

St. Luke’s provided this statement to its staff and to media regarding the photo:

A photo showing a St. Luke’s team member making an inappropriate hand gesture that is often interpreted as highly offensive briefly circulated on social media recently. When we became aware of the image and the negative meaning many people have assigned to it, we quickly removed it and initiated an internal investigation. We will take appropriate actions based on the findings.

The hand gesture has often been associated with white supremacy. We condemn any act that could be perceived as racist, discriminatory, threatening, demeaning or dehumanizing.

St. Luke’s is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, our values and our mission to care for all. We continuously strive to align our actions to ensure a safe, caring and welcoming environment for everyone in our communities.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state.