Karens, also known by their nicknames, have long been accused of engaging in dangerous behavior. This often stems from an ingrained sense of superiority and entitlement.
Karens are the latest in a long line of white people who have made headlines for their racist actions. While these actions may be condemned, they also possess the capacity to shape social discourse.
1. Sophia Rosing at the University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky recently expelled a white student after they were recorded calling a Black woman racial slurs and physically assaulting her. The incident took place last year, and the video went viral.
Sophia Rosing, 22, was charged with three counts of fourth-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault on a police officer. Additionally, Fayette County jail records indicate she bit and kicked a UK police officer during her arrest.
Following the incident, Rosing was suspended from the University of Kentucky and her job as a “Campus Influencer” for Dillard’s department store was terminated. However, she is now seeking assistance to address her problems.
On Tuesday night, a white woman who was caught on camera using racial slurs and attempting to assault a Black female employee at the University of Kentucky was criminally indicted by a grand jury, according to local news outlet Lex 18. The 22-year-old was arrested and booked into Fayette County Jail after she was seen calling Kylah Spring “N-word” multiple times while also attempting to strike her while drunk.
In November, an alleged attack at a dormitory was caught on video by a UK police officer who arrived minutes after the incident. According to the Daily Mail, Rosing appeared to have been intoxicated when she approached Spring without having her ID ready for entry into the elevator.
Her attorney, Fred Peters, expressed his distain for her actions. He told AP News that she should not have to bear the consequences of such an attack alone.
Peters reported his client was deeply embarrassed by the incident and sought counseling after being arrested.
On Sunday morning, a video of an incident that went viral emerged. This serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle faced by Black and Brown communities across America; racism is not simply a symptom but a systemic issue.
2. Christian Cooper at the University of Texas
In May, Christian Cooper’s videotaped encounter with a white woman walking her dog in New York City’s Central Park made national headlines. It sparked conversations about racism across America – such as on Trevor Noah’s podcast and via Twitter.
On the morning of their encounter, two Coopers (who weren’t related) were bird watching in Ramble Park’s Ramble, an area which requires unleashed dogs to be leashed. Video footage posted to Facebook went viral and drew widespread criticism.
Amy Cooper, an investment analyst at Franklin Templeton, called 911 after being threatened. She claimed an “African-American man” had threatened her but no arrests or summonses were issued.
One day after the incident, Franklin Templeton fired Amy Cooper and confiscated her cocker spaniel for animal rescue. The company declared that it did not endorse racism and was looking into the matter.
Amy Cooper filed a lawsuit against her former employer earlier this year, alleging defamation. She claimed the company’s statement that it was conducting an investigation was false and its reference to her as a racist was defamatory.
But the lawsuit was dismissed and a federal judge ruled that Amy Cooper did not need to repay her employer for its statement. This case also spurred New York state legislators to pass a law making it easier for people to sue when they experience harassment based on race or national origin.
The video of Amy Cooper’s confrontation with Christian Cooper went viral, garnering attention from CNN and other news outlets. Unfortunately, it drew a lot of criticism and she was ultimately forced to leave her job at Franklin Templeton and even fled her home due to the backlash.
Christian Cooper does not believe he was targeted due to his race, but he remains deeply troubled by the response to his encounter. He would rather address racism as a whole rather than continue focusing on Amy Cooper’s actions alone. Additionally, Christian was particularly distressed by retribution from racist Karens in the media.
3. a white woman at a gas station in Phoenix
Video footage of a woman being physically assaulted by racist Karens has gone viral online. The incident took place at a gas station in Phoenix, Arizona as she stood at the counter trying to get assistance with an unresponsive pump.
The video depicts a white woman, identified as Karen, telling the shopper to “go back home” before threatening them with physical violence. Additionally, it shows the racist Karen slapping the shopper across the face.
These types of incidents are nothing new; they’re an everyday occurrence in many cities. But now they’re being highlighted on social media as a way for Black communities to draw attention to and condemn racist behavior.
In some instances, violent encounters between white people and police often end with police intervening to defend the racist white individual caught on camera. This occurs because they believe that being white will grant them more favorable treatment from law enforcement officers than their non-White counterparts.
This is part of a longstanding culture of white supremacy that elevates and privileges White people over non-White people based on race. Additionally, it teaches white people that Black people are unworthy of protecting or serving.
Many times, these encounters are recorded and shared with the public to demonstrate that racist white women can be caught in their act of racism and that they’re not alone. Videos like these often garner millions of views and provide a stark reminder that racism exists – yet also provide captivating entertainment value.
James Fitzgerald, professor at the University of Kentucky and director of the Center for Social Inclusion, notes that these video clips gloss over the reality that people of color must endure policed by white women. It’s an issue people of color must be willing to discuss because it stems from a culture which privileges White people over those of color and punishes those who don’t fit within those privileges. It must be addressed, so people of color don’t feel judged or punished because their behavior doesn’t conform to these privileges.
4. a white woman at a gas station in Sacramento
The rising racial violence caused by racist Karens has sparked a predictable and unsurprising backlash. This reaction stems from frustration with the powerlessness of Karen memes as well as an unavoidable recognition that white women are complicit in racism.
One recent instance of physical assault by a racist Karen occurred when an elderly white woman in Sacramento was caught on video arguing with a Black woman at a gas station. Afterwards, the two got into a fist fight.
This incident, captured on a cell phone and shared 2.4 million times on Twitter, depicts a white woman wearing a surgical mask using the N-word while engaging in conversation with a black woman.
After Karen engaged in an argument with another woman, police were summoned and ultimately put her behind bars for two days. This was clearly a case of racism being vindicated as Karen got her due punishment.
In some cases, racist Karens have been caught on camera. But their actions are just part of a larger pattern that has existed for decades: people of color being forced to conform to rules in public spaces while feeling unsafe or unwelcomed in almost any space. This climate of racism continues to exist today.
According to Denise Dudley, an author and workplace consultant in San Luis Obispo, Calif., the Karen phenomenon is more common in societies that encourage women to suppress their anger and emotions. Studies have demonstrated that men who get angry are perceived as strong and decisive while women tend to be seen as hysterical.
These types of social attitudes and expectations contribute to the behavior of racist Karens, who in turn receive sympathy from other white people on social media platforms. Dudley believes these incidents have more complex roots than just being racially charged power plays.
No matter the cause, these kinds of incidents are disturbing when documented on social media footage. They ignore the reality that people of color – like these women in this instance – often receive police harassment and face various forms of oppression from white individuals.