White people across America are awakening to systemic racism and white privilege. More and more, they’re speaking out on social media platforms like Twitter or reading anti-racist literature.
These protests may mark a turning point, but addressing racism won’t happen on its own. It will require individuals to reevaluate their own social norms.
In February, the Karen meme made its debut as a playful jab at white women who believed they had earned their rights. But by spring, when Covid-19 spread and protests broke out over police shootings of unarmed Black men, it had become much more than an expression of white self-absorption: It served as both a representation of social policing during the pandemic and an allegory for 2020’s political landscape.
As these protests spread, Karen began to re-deploy herself in various places. We saw her at work, in the doctor’s office and even a hospital parking garage – her image popping up everywhere we looked! Interestingly enough, Karen has received far more likes on social media than Ken, her male counterpart.
Some of these videos have been criticized as too violent and threatening, but their main issue lies in showing a white woman in a privileged position being called out on her behavior by people of color. It’s not uncommon for white Karens to go into rages and verbally abuse people of color – in this instance, Karen filmed herself screaming at an African American man without apparent cause.
What’s even more alarming is the frequency of these incidents. Many Karens and Kens appear to be dealing with stress, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues related to Black Lives Matter’s return and ongoing furloughs/layoffs that many Americans are facing.
These issues, compounded by the current political atmosphere, are further compounded by the fact that most Karens and Kens are baby boomers. This generation has witnessed both the Vietnam War and civil rights movements that followed it, so it tends to be less inclined towards violence than younger generations which may lead to resentment or anger among some members.
According to Lillian Glass, a communications and body language expert, Karens and Kens’ overt racism stems from their vulnerability and is being fed by social justice activism. “You can see in these videos an expression of rage that comes from within them,” she explained to The Washington Post.
In 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic and racial justice protests occurring, the term “Karen” became increasingly used as an insult for white women who display behaviors criticized as selfish or racist. It serves to shame such behavior and call it out for what it is–racist and insensitive.
Karens are often depicted as arrogant, self-important women who become inflamed when people of color challenge their privilege assumptions about black people. This includes white women harassing and threatening black neighbors – even if those people may simply be doing their jobs within their communities – even though these actions could potentially prove harmful to both parties involved.
One infamous video, entitled “Central Park Karen,” depicts a white woman falsely calling the police on a black man while bird-watching in New York City’s Central Park. She claimed that he had threatened her life.
Other instances exist where white women have been accused of threatening black people without any evidence. Examples include a white woman calling the police on a Black woman for selling bottled water outside her apartment complex and a Black man painting an anti-Black Lives Matter sign outside his home.
This type of behavior is unfortunately common and often exposed through viral videos. One such example involves a young black woman who was attacked by a drunken white college student while attending the University of Kentucky.
Although there are certainly bad people in the world, there are also those doing amazing work to combat racism and discrimination. Denise Bradley – better known online as “Aunt Karen” – uses her platform on YouTube to expose white supremacist groups and their supporters.
She has also taken a stand against racist groups on Facebook and received death threats as a result of her remarks. But there is another side to this kind of activity.
At these difficult moments, action must be taken to address this problem. One possible solution is passing a California law which would classify discriminatory 911 calls as hate crimes. But we need to do more than simply pass legislation; we need policies that make Karens think twice before committing acts of race-based discrimination.
The Karen meme has ignited a national dialogue about race and class in America, prompting widespread outrage from civil rights and rights organizations.
The Karen phenomenon is a form of racial profiling that often arises during times of racial conflict and serves as an indication of wider social and economic unrest. It involves those who have been marginalized, disadvantaged, or underemployed due to systemic forces beyond their control.
These entitled women often do not experience racial discrimination and use their privilege to attack Black people. Examples include calling 911 on Black people and engaging in racist acts of intimidation. Some even claim to be afraid of Black people without any legitimate reason.
This phenomenon is likely related to the rising racial tensions caused by Black Lives Matter and other forms of resentment. Additionally, it appears connected with President Trump’s policies which have hit white blue-collar workers particularly hard.
As America’s economy and society have become more inequitable, many white middle-class Americans have grown frustrated with their own privileges. They experience a sense of entitlement and want to take control over their lives rather than rely on government for assistance.
To combat this, they have created a variety of interest groups and movements. These are usually organized by entrepreneurial organizers who invest capital in their group in order to attract members and finance its activities.
Interest groups are usually formed around political parties and ideologies, though they can exist through various means such as monetary or non-monetary exchanges.
In the United States, for instance, these groups often emerge out of a political crisis or social upheaval. For example, in 2016, the economic meltdown caused by the recession forced thousands of white blue-collar workers out of their manufacturing jobs – leaving them with less income and social support than before the downturn.
Activist groups can be found throughout the country, often via Facebook and Twitter. Some are funded by individual contributors while others are founded and run by paid staff members.
As the Black Lives Matter movement gained steam in 2016, social media was filled with videos of Karens engaging in all manner of egregious and inappropriate behavior. From threatening Black people on their own property to calling the police on them in public, Karens have become far from being reserved for Black people alone.
These aggressive behaviors are often the result of multiple personal and financial strains, including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the United States. Furthermore, Lillian Glass – a Los Angeles-based communication and body language expert – believes they may also be indicative of white people’s long history of racial profiling by white people in retail stores and other public settings.
For example, a woman who was reportedly banned from Costco in Houma, Louisiana for not wearing a mask took to social media to share her uncontrollable temper tantrum and attempted to lick the door of the store. She was later caught on camera holding her hand up as she shouted, “I’m a bad person!”
In Sacramento, another Karen used the n-word against a Black woman at a convenience store. When confronted by the woman for her racist actions and asked to apologize, Karen was promptly silenced.
A White woman was captured on video outside a grocery store in Los Angeles shouting at a Black woman for asking her to put her dog on a leash. In her rant, she also called out names and pointed her finger in her direction.
The video of this Karen incident was even used by Philadelphia federales as part of their campaign to arrest Lore Blumenthal, a masseuse, for setting her car on fire during a riot in Philadelphia after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd. If convicted, she faces 80 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
As the CDC continues to report an alarming number of cases of the coronavirus in the United States, Karens are taking their anger on a global scale. Recently, videos have surfaced showing a woman refusing to wear a mask during flight, Black Postmates driver blocking deliveries in Los Angeles and another woman using the n-word at a grocery store. These incidents should not be taken lightly and serve as reminders that our society continues to lack diversity, racism and racial tension.