A California man who was fired from his job earlier this month over a picture of his hand said he was cracking his knuckles and was not intending to form an alleged white power gesture, NBC 7 San Diego reported.
Emmanuel Cafferty was fired from his position at San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) after a fellow driver on the road took a picture of his arm hanging out of one of the company’s trucks.
The Twitter user wrote in a now-deleted post that the SDG&E employee, later identified as Cafferty, was using a white power symbol near a Black Lives Matter rally in Poway, Calif.
Cafferty, who is Mexican American, told the outlet that he was just cracking his knuckles outside of the window and had no idea that the gesture could have a racist intent.
“It’s scary that you can be charged, tried and convicted on social media, without your permission, with no corroborating evidence, of any type,” Cafferty said.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Southern Poverty Law Center have defined the "OK" hand sign as hateful symbols with messages linked to white supremacy. The ADL, a Jewish civil rights group, added the symbol to its online database of hate symbols last year.
But the ADL also emphasizes that the "traditional meaning of the 'okay' hand gesture" means that people should use caution before jumping to conclusions when they see it.
The sign is also used in what is known as the "circle game," wherein someone flashes the hand symbol with the goal of tricking someone into looking at it. If they do, that person gets punched in the arm.
The person who originally posted the picture told NBC 7 that he may have gotten “spun up” and misinterpreted the hand gesture. He told the outlet that he never intended for the SDG&E employee to be fired.
After the photo surfaced, Cafferty’s supervisor told him that he was suspended pending an investigation. A few days later, Cafferty was terminated by the company.
Cafferty told the outlet that he was proud of SDG&E for taking allegations of racism seriously but wanted to return to work.
"I don’t know how long it's going to take me to get over this, but to lose your dream job for playing with your fingers, that’s a hard pill to swallow," he said.
SDG&E told the outlet that it holds employees “to a high standard and expect them to live up to our values every day.”
“We conducted a good faith and thorough investigation that included gathering relevant information and multiple interviews, and took appropriate action,” the company said in a statement to NBC 7.