For the second time this year, Universal Orlando is dealing with an incident involving white supremacist hand symbols — and this time, it involves a Universal employee.
As first reported by USA Today, the episode involved an actor dressed as the character Gru from “Despicable Me.” During a character breakfast at Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando in March, the actor flashed an “OK” symbol — which the Anti-Defamation League says has become a symbol for “white power” — while taking a photo with a 6-year-old girl who is biracial and has autism.
Tiffiney and Richard Zinger only noticed the hand gesture on their daughter’s shoulder while going through their vacation photos in August. A video they provided to USA Today shows that the symbol was unlikely to be accidental, as the actor makes the symbol clearly visible after placing his hand on the girl’s shoulder.
After USA TODAY contacted Universal Orlando, the company said the employee playing the “Despicable Me” character had been fired. https://t.co/Ggs1o67X47 pic.twitter.com/doZNbhunop
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) October 2, 2019
“It’s more than the ‘OK’ sign,” Richard Zinger said to USA Today. “A lot of people don’t understand what that sign means.”
According to the USA Today report, the Zingers reported the incident to Universal in August. A month later, another email from the Zingers regarding the status of its inquiry was answered by Universal saying the investigation was “proprietary information” while offering the family free tickets and a gift card.
The Zingers said they’re not aiming or financial compensation, but have hired an attorney.
“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.”
In a statement to the press, Universal spokesperson Tom Schroeder confirmed the actor who made the hand gesture has been terminated.
“We never want our guests to experience what this family did,” Schroeder said in an email. “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.”
The previous incident saw park guests making hateful gestures. During an August 18 event at Universal Studios Florida, four riders on the Revenge of the Mummy attraction were photographed giving the Nazi salute and making the same white power symbol. Universal responded by saying “hate has no place here” and promising to permanently remove any guests using hate speech or displaying hate symbols.
This isn’t the first time Orlando theme parks have dealt with racist symbols from guests. As the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2009, members of the hate group American Front took advantage of an on-ride photo on Splash Mountain at Disney World to give their own Nazi salute.
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