By Kyle R.
With the advent and integration of social media we have seen memes that have entered popular culture around the world. Within the last year a new meme has entered our lexicon. This meme is “The Karen”. So what exactly is the Karen meme and what is its origin and meaning. Unfortunately the origin of the use of the name Karen is unknown but many believe that it was initially started by comedian Dane Cook in 2005 with one of his jokes that alluded to a Karen in the group that no one wanted to be around(Greenspan, 2020). Moving forward in time to 2020, this name had not been used in this context till May 27, 2020. Amy Cooper a white woman called the cops on a black man Christian Cooper in Central Park. What was Christians crime? He asked Amy to put her dog on a leash which then prompted Amy to call the cops on the bird watcher and pretend that her life was somehow in danger(Madani, 2020). It also didn't help Amy that this incident subsequently followed by the releasing of the infamous George Floyd video that started a movement. This incident was the birth of the Karen meme and stereotype. It is meant to be used to describe a white woman that commits racist acts in public. Over the past year there have been multiple instances where white women have been perceived as committing a racist act that was being recorded. These actions would deem them to be considered Karens.
So how exactly has this phenomenon permeated throughout culture and media in America? In our current times of cancel culture being at an all time high, cell phones have allowed us to be able to become more and more connected by being able to engage with situations that we previously would not be able to. In the case of Amy Cooper the media coverage of this incident held drastic repercussions for her. At the very beginning of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, Amy lost her job at investment management company Franklin Templeton. She lost her home and lost custody of her dog. Unfortunately for her this was not the end of it. Currently she is in court having to face false report charges. In a sense there was a bit of a consensus that went around all forms of media that this specific situation Amy was in was completely wrong and had to face the harsh consequences for her Karen actions.
When taking a broader look at the stereotype of a Karen we must acknowledge race and gender plays a role in how the world will perceive each occurance of a so called Karen moment. In all of these Karen situations the woman is white and she is provoking an unassociated African American. At this point in American society there seems to be a hierarchy that permeates throughout our culture. Currently white women are higher on this hierarchy that lives within our culture. As time goes on and we see these instances where white women use their privilege over African Americans it leads to Karen's becoming more and more identified as racists that they are being perceived as. In most cases they use their gender as a way to show that they are somehow in danger because the other person being African American can harm them, which in most cases they are men. This doubles as a racist motivated intention because they are also saying that since the person is African American, they pose more of a threat in comparison to a white person. This is also a form of racist stereotype that pertains to African Americans as a whole.
Finally what can be done to address this new Karen stereotype? We have established the meaning of what Karen comes with racial and in most cases sexist connotations. When it comes to the media age that we live in currently, unfortunately for women this stereotype will continue because there is no shortage of cell phones and cameras everywhere. As a society we must find a way to move past our differences so that racism and sexism has no place so that situations become more and more of an outlier. As time goes on and in the current climate of canceled culture the repercussions of our actions have never been at a greater risk. Learn to put our personal biases aside and judge everyone as an individual and try to not stereotype one another.
So in short, Don’t be a Karen!
Madani, Doha. “White Woman Who Called Police on Black Bird Watcher in Central Park Faces False Report Charge.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 7 July 2020, www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/white-woman-who-called-police-black-bird-watcher-central-park-n1233006.
Greenspan, Rachel E. “How the Name 'Karen' Became a Stand-in for Problematic White Women and a Hugely Popular Meme.” Insider, Insider, 26 Oct. 2020, www.insider.com/karen-meme-origin-the-history-of-calling-women-karen-white-2020-5.
Miller, Ryan W. “White Woman in Central Park Called 911 a Second Time on Black Bird-Watcher, Prosecutors Say.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 14 Oct. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/10/14/amy-cooper-called-911-twice-christian-cooper-central-park-ramble/3650666001/.