When you watch videos of people getting angry in stores and on airplanes, it’s not unusual to witness someone named Karen. These entitled Karens demand their needs and wants be met before those of everyone else.
They may be entitled to special privileges based on race, class or gender, but they often use that power as a weapon against lower-status workers. It’s an incredibly uncomfortable and hazardous position.
Karens have become a ubiquitous term in the media to denote rude or racist individuals. It has become so commonplace that businesses have begun using it to promote their products, with one subreddit dedicated to shameing those who refer themselves as “entitled Karens”.
If you see entitled Karens on television or in public, it’s likely because they’ve been caught in the act of being extremely rude or racist. These individuals take their frustration out on those around them and often harbor resentment about their own privileges which they then project onto others.
They tend to be middle-aged or elderly women who are usually white. Because these individuals rarely experience hardship or discrimination, they don’t understand that treating others this way is wrong; being white, middle class women has given them the privilege of doing things their way. Unfortunately, however, this attitude may spread amongst other minority groups as well.
Therefore, they tend to be extremely loud and aggressive when upset. They may use words abusively in an effort to intimidate or control another individual by exerting their authority.
Although they may appear to be very loud and aggressive, this doesn’t always indicate that they aren’t genuinely upset about something in their life. For instance, they could be angry about being laid off from their job or because of furloughs being implemented across many industries.
These issues exist, yet they also make it all too easy for people to become angry and act out against others. This is how Karen became so famous, yet this should never be encouraged.
Many have begun to debate if “Karen” is an offensive slur, leading some to suggest that if there were ever a male version of Karen it would be called “Ken.” It’s an intriguing debate and serves to demonstrate just how misogynistic and ageist this slang can be.
Entitled White Women
The media has been riveted by viral videos labeling white women as “Karens.” These clips often showcase privileged and entitled white women being rude or racist on camera.
It has splintered the narrative of racism, with people labeled “Karens” being able to hide their actions behind a benign name that makes them feel less guilty for their racism. Conversely, when white people overuse Karen as an excuse for their own racism, they are watering down the actual violence and powerlessness that comes along with it.
Karen comes in many forms, all sharing one trait: They’re middle class white males who use their privilege to socially police others. By using both privilege and rage they seek either to obtain what they desire or maintain what they already possess.
These people have no problem calling the police on little girls selling bottled water in grocery stores or Black people writing “Black Lives Matter” with chalk on their sidewalks. Karens who cough on patrons of bagel shops or call police on women walking their dogs in parks – the list goes on and on.
These “Karens” represent not just a problem for white people but their communities as well. In many ways, these “Karens” represent the face of racism that’s gone unchecked too long in America.
That is why it is so critical that we stop allowing these women to hide behind a fig leaf. We need to call these racist white women by their real names and stop allowing them to use Karen as an excuse for not accepting responsibility for their actions.
If the media wants to portray racist white people accurately, they need to show more than just videos of white people on the street. They should feature more footage of white women who are using their privilege to police others.
Entitled Black Women
Media portrayals of Black women, such as the mammy and Jezebel, have been used to further perpetuate racism and misogyny against them in America. These stereotypes remain today and still shape how Black women are treated in our society today.
Stereotypical depictions of Black women have had a detrimental effect on the lives of Black women, creating powerful ideologies about race and gender that influence their daily lives. Furthermore, these expectations place on Black women to act in certain ways.
Professor Kelley emphasizes the destructive impact of stereotypical portrayals, which have been used by the media for centuries. These stereotypes include Mammy, Sapphire and Jezebel – images which have helped shape society’s view of black people.
In the early 1900s, minstrel shows became increasingly popular and often mocked African Americans. These shows painted black people as rude, aggressive, and unpleasant.
These shows often portrayed women as dependent on men, promiscuous and aggressive. These stereotypical portrayals created harmful perceptions of Black women that led to both sexual and economic exploitation of African Americans in America.
This stereotype continues to shape how African American women are represented in popular culture and the media, creating an internalized feeling that they are unworthy of love and respect. This belief can have devastating consequences on women’s self-worth, leading them to feel inadequate.
Recently, Serena Williams ignited criticism when she was captured on camera being extremely upset about something that transpired during a game. Her coach called her out on it, leading to an outpouring of fury from fans.
Professor Boylorn told the BBC it is difficult for black people to remain calm and not be angry following generations of oppression, discrimination and erasure. Furthermore, she felt it unfair that Williams was singled out for being yelled at when it was her actions that caused the incident.
For decades, angry black women have been a common representation in the media. They have been accused of being loud, obnoxious and racist.
They are often described as a loud nagging whiner who always complains and experiences irrational states of anger and indignation. They harbor hatred towards anyone who insults or disrespects them in public or privately.
Entitled White Men
Karen, a popular term for an ignorant white woman, is just the latest example of this trend among entitled White Americans. Ijeoma Oluo’s new book, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, delves into how such entitlement has led to dangerous behaviors such as racism and sexual violence against women.
Karen, which is often used to refer to a white woman who appears unaware of her privilege and acts as if it’s none of her concern. Like white tears and racial fragility, Karen fits into an ongoing tradition of tropes that target performances of racial innocence and white guilt.
It is dangerous to conflate Becky and Karen, as it allows more subtly racist White women to believe their anger does not belong under this banner when it actually does. Furthermore, it dilutes Karen’s words which are focused on a specific constellation of entitled white supremacy and class privilege.
Some rebuttals to the Karen trend have highlighted how it mirrors and reinscribes white men who are caught on camera being rude or racist. British journalist Hadley Freeman declared that Karen is “rooted in sexism” and a “woman-hating slur.”
According to Lillian Glass, a communications and body-language expert in Los Angeles, the Karen phenomenon is especially dangerous because White Americans have become increasingly concerned about public health and racial social justice issues. Furloughs, layoffs, lockdowns and the return of Black Lives Matter have left many Karens feeling insecure and threatened, she noted.
These videos demonstrate White America’s resentment, reminding us that while White people believe they have the right to be treated as entitled and expect others to treat them similarly, others do not share this belief.
White America’s belief in its own righteousness is a powerful force that threatens to divide us along racial lines, according to experts. That is why it’s essential to understand how and why White Americans have become so deeply embedded in this mindset, and how best to combat it.