Rude Karens are on the rise, particularly in America due to social and economic divisions that have created an atmosphere of resentment.
Resentment can be seen in the behavior of some individuals and is typically due to entitlement, privilege, disenfranchisement or rage. Videos uploaded onto social media sites like Twitter and Facebook US:FB often demonstrate this sentiment.
Over the past year, there have been multiple opinions columns written about rude Karens who were arrested for their public behavior. In some cases, these videos accused individuals of harassment against people of color and/or calling the police on individuals trying to go about their day.
These videos, which can range in content from disturbing to funny, are a common occurrence on social media platforms. According to Terence Fitzgerald – a sociology professor at San Francisco State University – these videos serve as depressing reminders of the profound racial gaps that exist between White Americans and people of color.
These videos offer a fascinating window into the minds of those making these calls. According to Linda Clemons, CEO of Sisterpreneur – an organization dedicated to supporting female entrepreneurs – they illustrate how often white people with privilege are faced with racial micro-aggressions and misunderstands in their daily lives.
Many of these incidents can be attributed to entitlement and anger. The person caught on camera protesting a mask mandate or people of color might have simply been angry about the sexism, discrimination and inequality they experienced firsthand.
Some who view the Karen videos as telling, argue they provide a safe outlet for those unable to express their anger in society. On the other hand, Aram Sinnreich, an associate professor of communication at American University in Washington, D.C., believes there is also an element of sexism present in these videos, since they tend to focus more on women than men.
Karen videos often lack a sexist tone, which may explain why they don’t receive as much attention as other videos of people losing their cool in public. That may be because these scenes take place in places where women still dominate such as clothing stores and supermarkets.
Denise Dudley, a workplace consultant from San Luis Obispo, Calif., believes there may be deeper causes behind such instances of entitled behavior. She speculates that they could be caused by the toxic myth of female hysteria still pervading society today.
The internet is filled with videos of rude Karens losing their temper in public places, such as airports, airplanes, retail stores and playgrounds. These videos are captured on camera and shared online where thousands of people can watch them within seconds.
Karens often display irrational behavior due to one of three causes: entitlement, privilege or disenfranchisement, and/or rage. They may also be feeling threatened, as the recent coronavirus pandemic has created a national sense of unease.
In one incident, a middle-aged white woman in New Jersey intervened on the side of the road when her adult daughter was pulled over by local police for not having current registration. She flashed her New York and New Jersey Port Authority commissioner’s badge and demanded to know what was going on before berateng the officers for nearly an hour.
Another is a middle-aged white Texas primary school teacher who repeatedly attempts to contact President Trump, asking for his assistance in deporting all “illegal” students at her school. This type of action has sparked many angry reactions online from other Karens as well as an increasing number of arrests.
Some have compared this behavior to “white supremacy.” Others argue that it is a reflection of America’s growing racial divide. Linda Clemons, senior writer for Black Agenda Report, explained how these Karens and Kens are emerging in America as an outcome of generations-long divisions between Whites and Blacks.
Clemons believes these irrational behaviors are a way for these people to vent their frustrations and call out other white people in the area who may be acting similarly in their personal lives. These individuals have been left behind by globalization and technological progress, so these actions serve as an attempt to reach them.
But there’s another side to this phenomenon as well. Karen has become a byword for middle-aged white women who oppose social distancing, either out of ignorance or self-interest. It has also been used to describe some individuals of color who have displayed aggressive behavior toward others without apparent cause – often out of race frustration.
The term “Karen” has become increasingly popular to describe someone who acts rude and disrespectfully in public. Recently, we’ve seen numerous opinion columns written specifically about rude Karens who were arrested for their behaviors.
These incidents often bring up deeper questions about mental health, substance abuse and/or stress. But some social commentators suggest these viral videos and memes may also reveal subtler forms of racism.
Terence Fitzgerald, an associate professor in UC Santa Cruz’s Department of Psychology, believes some Karen-esque microaggressions are caused by racial profiling and cultural “redlining,” where white people attempt to maintain exclusive access to certain spaces like public parks or street corners. Such incidents demonstrate a type of surreptitious racism which permeates neighborhoods and workplaces across America.
Some observers believe many Karens and Kens are feeling threatened by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused thousands of people in both black and white communities to lose their jobs or face other economic difficulties. Furloughs, layoffs, and lockdowns have only compounded this sense of vulnerability among Karens and Kens.
According to Lillian Glass, a communications and body language expert at UCLA who specializes in dealing with toxic people, the anger displayed in these video incidents can often be displaced. She says this is the perfect storm: personal issues, financial troubles, and COVID-19 stress all coming together at once.
She adds that anger can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and fear about getting sick, as well as be a reflection of the current political climate which has left many people feeling unsupported and threatened.
Karen contends that some women are especially prone to being called Karen due to their unwillingness to express their emotions. This, she believes, could be linked to the toxic myth of female hysteria that still pervades society – whether at work or in doctors’ offices.
In a world where racism is all too common, opinion columns about rude Karens who were arrested for their public behavior seem out of place. Yet these incidents serve as reminders of just how many incidents like these take place across America every day.
Terence Fitzgerald, a professor of sociology and social justice at the University of California-Irvine, has experienced these types of microaggressions his entire life. He attributes them to racial profiling, cultural “redlining” where white people try to maintain exclusive access to public space, as well as plain old-fashioned entitlement.
He points out that these aggressive, racist outbursts by middle-class Americans may also be due to stress and anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic. In such a context, it’s no shock that some Karens act out in public to express their own frustrations and rage.
But there is another kind of Karen that rarely makes the headlines in viral videos and memes: the ones who express displeasure with stores’ social-distancing policies, which often involve masks, and demand to speak with a manager.
Karens often face more complex issues than just not wanting to wear a face mask, such as mental health concerns, substance abuse issues and stress due to the coronavirus pandemic. While these incidents may not be documented on social media videos, they exist nonetheless and can be just as upsetting.
Lillian Glass, a communications and body-language expert in Los Angeles, notes that anger often stems from more than just those asking for social distancing. It can be due to stress caused by the flu or fear of getting sick, as well as frustration with an economy which has been hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
Even though these people face complex underlying issues, social-media videos often spark an intense backlash and global condemnation. This can have financial and professional repercussions for Karen or Ken in the video; they may be excluded, denied jobs or fired from their positions at retail and restaurant businesses.