Karen is a popular Internet slang term for middle-aged white women who display behaviors associated with privilege and entitlement. It’s usually used to derogatorily refer to those types of women who demand to speak to management or belittle service industry workers.
The Karen meme is part of a long and troubling legacy in America where white women have used victimization to further their own interests. Williams notes that this behavior has spawned new laws across the country to safeguard people from such practices.
1. “Coughing Karen”
“Coughing Karen” is a video that’s been gaining widespread attention this week. It depicts a woman suffering from the COVID pandemic coughing on two women in the parking lot of Super Saver grocery store, posted to TikTok and Twitter where it has since amassed millions of views. Fortunately for those she berated, SAP, a German software company, has since removed her from employment.
This is an historic event for many reasons. It’s rare for someone to get fired due to an unrelated incident, much less on social media. I hope this story signals the start of a new era of harassment-free employment practices. Let us remember how fortunate we are to have jobs that allow us to pursue what we love while having supportive family and friends around us who share similar interests.
2. “Pool Patrol Karen”
If you’re not on social media, you might have missed the viral TikTok video of “Pool Patrol Karen.” This clip has been viewed more than 1 million times and shows a white woman named Stephanie Sebby-Strempel threatening to call police on an unarmed black teenager. This incident follows an increasingly common pattern where white people allegedly call the cops on black people for what appear to be minor offenses.
Pool Patrol Karen was an integral part of the Special Olympics swim team at St. Mary’s High School in Portland, Oregon – she swam with them, rode on the bus to every meet, and even had a letterman’s jacket! Karen loved being part of this family-oriented environment and looked forward to each week when she could join in the fun with the others on the squad. It wasn’t just about swimming laps around the pool – it was about having something new to learn every day!
Her videos feature her wearing a pink swimsuit and white cap. Additionally, she dons her letterman’s jacket while holding up a sign reading “Team Karen.”
Her video has been compared to other racist videos, such as one involving white woman “BBQ Becky,” who reportedly threatened black families with police action for having a barbecue at a lake. Another alleged race-baiting white woman named “Permit Patty” was caught on camera threatening to call the cops on an 8-year-old black girl selling water bottles without a permit in San Francisco, California.
Ultimately, the white woman was charged with assault and battery for her actions. When police arrived at her home with a warrant for arrest, she shoved one detective into a wall and bit one officer on his arm. She was then jailed and released on bond; however, since then she has deleted the video and told reporters she never intended to harm anyone.
3. “Kidz Bop Karen”
When a rideshare driver in New York City cuts off a mother and her kids while they’re riding together, things quickly spiral out of control. Karen becomes furious, shouting at both her driver and his passenger while sticking her head out the window for an obscenity-laced tirade.
Her video quickly went viral, leading to numerous jokes about her behavior on social media. One popular meme focused on the fact that her kids were listening to Kidz Bop while she yelled obscenities in the car.
“Kidz Bop Karen,” as she’s become known, is one of the most bizarre road rage incidents to ever hit the internet. Her outburst has become the subject of numerous viral videos and her YouTube clip now boasts over 16.4 million views.
TMZ finally caught up with Chelsea Klein, whose real name is Chelsea. As she recounted, the rideshare driver abruptly cut her off and took his passenger in the backseat.
Though her rant is humorous, she does have a valid point: She’s an impatient mom who wants to reach her destination before the light turns green. Though she might be a bit of a diva on the road, that doesn’t make her any less of a great parent.
However, she never expected to be caught on video and have her rage spread across the web. The video was captured by Klein and has become a viral sensation thanks to Barstool Sports’ reposting.
After her anger spread across social media, the woman says she’s taking it in stride. According to TMZ, only one insult from the online mob is getting under her skin — being labeled a Republican!
4. “Central Park Karen”
Last year, Amy Cooper (known as “Central Park Karen”) made headlines when a video of her calling the police on a Black birdwatcher went viral. Unlike most Karen memes, this version was actually captured on camera and made it into mainstream media.
Central Park in New York City is one of the world’s iconic parks and draws millions of visitors each year. It is a favorite spot for family outings, picnics and leisurely walks through its lush greenery.
The park itself covers two acres and boasts a variety of amenities like picnic areas, benches, trees, a gazebo and drinking fountain. Plus it plays host to numerous city programs and events throughout the year.
Additionally, it boasts a significant population of people of color and an ever-expanding number of Millennials who call the city their own.
Although much attention has been focused on the Central Park Karen video, there have been other noteworthy examples in recent years. From a dog walker calling police on an African American man in Minneapolis to Uber Karen stealing sunglasses from a Black woman in Brooklyn, these videos serve as reminders that this video was just one more in a long line of infamous incidents.
A US judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed in May by Central Park Karen that sought to prove her former employer had discriminated against her and painted her as a racist. The suit claimed Franklin Templeton, an investment holding company, had a company-wide double standard which led them to terminate her after what many perceived as the most socially acceptable – and entertaining – incident of her career.
5. “Karen Calling the Cops”
Recently, the term “Karen Calling the Cops” became a widely circulated meme online. A video clip showing a white woman pulling out her phone and calling police while watching people of color has become an upsetting scene that’s made many people uncomfortable.
These videos often gain notoriety because they’re funny, but they also highlight an important issue: white women posing threats to Black Americans. Many times, these women act out of an entitlement mentality.
Apryl Williams, a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, has conducted research on white women who display entitlement by calling the police on Black Americans in public spaces. In her paper, Apryl highlights that these individuals often have a history of using nicknames which make light of their potentially hazardous actions.
But when white women call the cops on Black Americans out of anger or entitlement, it escalates into a racially charged situation. This is especially true when these women are filmed, such as in many of Karen videos that have gone viral.
Some of these videos have been shown to police and prosecutors, while others have not. As a result, several states have passed laws in an effort to criminalize this type of behavior.
But “Karen” has also become a generic label for various racially charged behaviors. It has now become an insulting term used to denigrate actions perceived as motivated by privilege, entitlement or rage. While some criticize this appropriation of Karen to describe many white women as sexist, it remains evident that this powerful symbol has gained new significance amid current political climate and Black Lives Matter demonstrations.