Op-Ed: From A Harmless Meme To A Problematic Slur, We Have Missed The Mark With ‘Karen’

Being called a ‘Karen’ is not racist or sexist. It’s calling out shitty behavior. 


Living through a worldwide pandemic, there has been a huge spike of “Karen” videos circling the internet. 

Last week, a video emerged and gained traction after showing a video of a white woman screaming in her driveway. Comedian and internet personality, Karlos Dillard, posted a series of stories on his Instagram and Twitter.

A white woman cries hysterically after Dillard followed her home to confront her for her alleged behavior off camera.  

According to an interview by Insider, [Dillard] said:

“He and the woman were both in a two-lane street that merged into one lane, and  he merged ahead of her, before she swerved to get ahead of him and slammed on her brakes and yelled at him through her car window. Then, he said he got ahead of her and took a right. The woman then allegedly followed him, as he took three additional right turns.

After they’d essentially driven in a circle, Dillard said he got out of his car and asked the woman why she had followed him. That’s when she began shouting racial slurs at him, he recalled. “She was angry, upset, screaming racial slurs, obscenities,” Dillard told Insider.

When he took out his phone to begin filming the interaction, Dillard said the woman quickly drove away. “I just went into the general direction that her car drove. And I happened to literally drive right behind her,” when the woman entered what is apparently her driveway, and Dillard pulled up, got out of the car, and continued filming. The rest of the encounter can be seen in the video.”

In the video, the woman can be seen covering her face and crying out in fear of being called a ‘Karen’ by people online. The woman repeatedly screams and begs Dillard to stop filming. Residents can even be heard yelling from her complex telling Dillard to “leave her alone.”

It seems to have become a popular trend to expose ‘Karens’ to social media and the video has struck a huge conversation and argument with ‘Karen Culture.’

People have gone as far as comparing the term ‘Karen’ to using the racial slur for an African American person. 

Illustrator and author, Talhi Briones, took to instagram to dismantle the term Karen in a series of comic strips.  She prefaces by saying “I am not black, and I’m Canadian, so I’m not an authority on the matter I just know how to draw. Listen to black voices.”

Briones continues to say, “White men: Don’t use the term Karen. Coming from you, it’s just misogynistic. Karen is a word coined by people of color, mostly black people, in reaction to acts of racism. And if you’re a white woman complaining against the use of the term Karen — wonder why you’re not campaigning against the racist acts of the ones that get called Karen.”

Brione’s post has grown to have up to 45-thousand likes on Instagram as of today. The dichotomy between using and not using the term ‘Karen’ continues. One user stating,

“Karen shaming isn’t as bad as racism when people who act like it… Karen is just a way to show that its not okay for their [racist] acts and their unruly behavior and wanting to speak to the manager…”

Another user commenting,

“I disagree with this. Karen shaming is just as bad as racism. Just because someone is named Karen or is a middles aged woman with that ‘Karen haircut’ doesn’t mean she’s racist or rude.”

Many users have commented saying ‘Karen’ was nothing more than a meme used to mock rude customers, not an umbrella term for racists. It wasn’t until the term ‘Karen’ was shifted from innocent mockery to calling out racist actions when Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the police on a black man bird watching in Central Park. 

The Karen meme has evolved from a harmless meme into a slur associated with racial justice and privilege. 

People are too worried and offended in being called a Karen that they don’t see the underlying problem: problematic and nasty behavior.

If you’re offended by being called a Karen, then maybe you have some deep-seeded issues to work out. Stop focusing on being called a Karen, and more on why you’re being called a Karen.

What do you think of the term Karen?  Share with us in the comments.

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