OMG, Pepe-bashing in the NY Times!
An individual might declare that his or her personal use of the swastika or Confederate flag isn’t racist, but individual protestation can’t overturn social consensus, or obviate the experiences of those who read the symbols as synonymous with hate.
Similarly, until Pepe casts off this iteration of his meme — an outcome the cartoonist who created him, for one, is hopeful for — he will remain intertwined with white supremacist ideology. So as the Anti-Defamation League suggests, think before you retweet.
So surrender is definitely the safer option because someone out there might be triggered and we don't want to accidentally erase or invalidate anyone who finds Pepe offensive. As to how Pepe users can "cast off" this appropriation without actually using the symbol and risking opprobrium, well, I never claimed to be smart enough to be a lefty.
Alt-right trolls have a history of adopting cultural figures and turning them into white supremacist idols. 4chan's obsession with Taylor Swift and Elsa from "Frozen" is primarily due to their blond hair, blue eyes and other Aryan traits. Swift and Elsa have become Nazi icons for a certain sector of the alt-right. But it'd be ridiculous to call them hate symbols.
The Anti-Defamation League's mission to document modern-day hate speech is noble and practical, especially while chaotic, rebellious right-wing ideologies continue to gain influence. But I believe this designation gives a group of trolls too much power to co-opt harmless imagery.