Have you seen a recent viral video featuring someone named “Karen?” If so, chances are good that she was wearing an adorable tutu!
This term is applied to middle-class white women who demonstrate behaviors arising from privilege. These individuals tend to be anti-vaccination, snobby and use their power to make other people uncomfortable.
What exactly defines a Karen? And why has this name become so derisive?
In today’s world of racial violence, the term “Karen” has become widely used as an insulting label for white women who commit racist acts. While this label may not be accurate, it still serves to describe those who act with a sense of entitlement and white privilege.
Karens often get involved in low-stakes situations like trying to reserve a parking spot. However, the more dangerous types of Karens are those who use their power for negative impact on others. These individuals have been known to call police on Black people, tattle on people at Lemonade Stands or even attack someone for perceived slights.
According to Kansas State University professor Heather Suzanne Woods, Karens are individuals who employ various tactics in order to obtain what they desire. They tend to be self-centered individuals who strive for justice and engage in arguments with those whom they disagree with.”
Woods describes Karens as having “a sense of entitlement”, being impulsive and emotional, taking things personally, and intolerant towards other’s opinions or ideas.
Karen has gained notoriety in recent months, but it is not an original term. It can be traced back to other nicknames used to refer to Black people such as Miss Ann and Mister Charlie in the 19th century; these were often linked with white privilege that African American communities had to contend with.
In a world where racial justice is an ongoing battle, there’s a reason that the term Karen has become so widely used. It symbolizes an oppressive system that persists regardless of age or time.
It is imperative to acknowledge the deep-seated injustice in this society, which is why speaking out against Karens is so essential. Whether through viral videos or actual racism, we cannot turn a blind eye to these issues.
This week, Amy Cooper made headlines when she confronted a Black man in Central Park who asked her to keep her dog on a leash. The incident was captured on video and has since gone viral.
Cooper is a white woman, yet her actions were clearly motivated by race. To avoid being held accountable for violating park rules, Cooper likely relied on various racial stereotypes. She knew that her lies would elicit an inhumane and deadly response from law enforcement.
Miya Ponsetto, 22, is a 22-year-old former cheerleader from Piru in Ventura County, California. She holds mixed ethnicity – she identifies as Puerto Rican but has Italian, Greek, and Vietnamese ancestry.
She gained notoriety following a confrontation she had with a Black teenager at a hotel lobby in New York in December 2020, which was captured on video and went viral online. As a result of her racially charged accusations against the 14-year-old at the time, she was dubbed “SoHo Karen”.
The incident took place in the lobby of the Arlo hotel in SoHo, Manhattan and was captured on security footage. Ponsetto was seen arguing with the teenager, demanding she give him her phone, which she claimed to be hers.
After he refused to give her the phone, she chased him and threw him into the ground. Her father recorded part of the encounter which was later posted online by YouTube.
Ponsetto was arrested by police in her native California and her mother called the media to inform them of her whereabouts.
She had been arrested in October 2018 for DUI and resisting arrest in her home state; later that month she was detained again on charges of drunk driving and assaulting a police officer. As part of her plea deal, if she can stay out of trouble for two years and avoid further legal issues, then no jail time will be served.
On her initial appearance in New York, she was granted supervised release to avoid further trouble. Since returning home to California, she must attend all court dates in NYC under the condition that she follows the terms of her probation.
Her case is being investigated by a team of detectives, and her lawyer has stated that they are working to keep any charges against her off the table. Furthermore, according to The Daily Mail, she has reportedly participated in counseling sessions.
However, she faces multiple felony charges in California as she remains under investigation by the FBI for her crimes. Furthermore, she has been accused of attacking and falsely accusing a Black teen.
This incident is suspected to have been the result of racial profiling and is currently not being investigated by the NYPD.
Meanwhile, this incident is being seen by many as yet another example of racial profiling against Black men and boys at a time when Black Americans are facing unprecedented challenges and high-profile racial injustices.
Ponsetto earned herself the moniker “SoHo Karen” after her altercation with teenager Keyon Harrold Jr. Her anger was evident in the video as she grabbed his clothes and tackled him to the ground.
Any other Karens?
If you’re familiar with the recent social media trend of “Karen,” then you know it’s a pejorative term for white women perceived to be overly demanding. It usually refers to someone who throws a tantrum at Starbucks, demands to speak to the manager or calls the police on black people for asking them to leash their dog in Central Park.
There has long been controversy surrounding this term, with some accusing it of being sexist and others saying that it serves to excuse casual racism and privilege. Regardless, its existence and role in reinforcing social norms that benefit white people remain unchanged over time.
Though typically associated with middle-aged Gen Xers, its roots can be traced back further. According to the Office of Social Security, “Karen” reached its highest popularity as a baby name between 1951 and 1968.
Karen has long been a beloved name among girls in the United States and Burma/Myanmar. The Karen are an ethnic group living in Burma who were once part of an established government but have been oppressed by military rule ever since the 1962 coup.
Today, Karens live in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border after being uprooted from their homeland. They’re victims of Burmese military atrocities such as “Four Cuts Campaign,” which takes away life-sustaining resources like agriculture and livestock from them. Furthermore, many Karens have been sexually exploited by security personnel.”
They are skilled farmers, cultivating crops such as rice and vegetables. Furthermore, they hold a deep faith in animism, believing there to be Lords who rule over rivers and mountains. These Lords possess servants or ghosts who roam around Karen land smoking pipes with spears or swords at their side.
Karen spirituality has had a profound effect on how they view the world. Some Karen people even claim that their names are sacred to them, used for self-protection and honor.
For instance, they avoid kissing or hugging in public and never touch each other with their hands. This isn’t because they don’t like the idea, it’s simply because they believe touching someone too closely could cause harm to them.
Karens have their own beliefs regarding health. For instance, they believe yellow foods can cause hepatitis and papaya can bring on malaria. Furthermore, they take great caution when taking medicines or vitamins.
The Karen have long been the victims of religious persecution, having once been a Christian group. Indeed, the first Buddhist missionaries to Burma came here in the 1800s and were forcibly removed from their homes by Karen rebels.