July 2, 2020
There’s a new Karen in town, and I’ve dubbed her The Karen K-3000.
(Even though the “K” is redundant, it’s a head nod to the villain in the Terminator movies—clearly how all of my columns shall start now.)
If you still have no idea who Karen is, let me be the first to tell you: it’s an official Wikipedia entry. And since we all know “Wikipedia-entry official” is the nerd’s version of a blue check on Instagram, then rest assured: this is not a word I just made up. (You know, like the time you read my new book and came across the delightfully academic crotchscapade.)
Wikipedia’s definition of “a Karen” is:
“A pejorative term used in the Western world for a woman perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary. …Depictions include demanding to “speak to the manager”, being an anti-vaxxer, or having a particular bob cut hairstyle.”
So, you know, exactly like Kate from Jon and Kate Plus Eight. Remember that Night King?
Historically the term has referred to that one gem of a woman you see causing a scene in her Vera Wang golf shirt over the fact that she has been served Pinot Grigio instead of Chardonnay—and can’t anybody get anything right around here? You can find her in her natural habitat at Starbucks or on somebody’s lawn bitching about a permit, and her mating call—at least how I imagine it—is that of an ejaculating hyena. (Then again, maybe I’ve skipped ahead a few steps there.)
The bottom line: if you feel like you’re getting called to the principal’s office, you’re dealing with a Karen—at least, the original prototype. Karens have always been the ulcers of society, but traditionally the term spoke more to an insufferable personality, rather than true malice. But just as we’ve seen some real human septic tanks come out of the woodwork with the election of Donald Trump, we’ve also seen some real pus-filled Karens come out to play too: and—probably not a spoiler alert—she’s wearing a MAGA hat in her mini van on her way to Bed, Bath & Beyond, where she will not only NOT be wearing a mask while snatching up all of the “Live, Laugh, Love” wall art and demanding that an hourly employee be fired, but she will be doing so with an all-new sense of indignant spite: a dangerous one.
Karen doesn’t like it when other people call her to the principal’s office.
And that’s exactly what this moment in time feels like right now for Karen: her privilege has been put under a spotlight and she’s being criticized and judged—by people she considers “less than,” mind you—so suddenly she feels backed into a corner, and her used-to-be-cute-in-the-year-2000 manicured claws are coming out. And Karen’s making herself out to be—ready for it?—the victim.
So she’s chosen to weaponize her white privilege instead of examine it. In fact, she’s doubling down on her privilege right now, protecting it, adding reinforcements, and reaffirming its very existence as “her right.”
Enter: The Karen K-3000: an asshole dressed up as a “good, tax-paying citizen”—but is anything but.
- We’ve all seen the video of Amy Cooper.
- This video made me extremely emotional, watching a vile, old, venomous, hateful racist mouth breather scream at an Asian woman to “get the fuck out of this world, get the fuck out of this state, go back to whatever fucking Asian you belong in—WE DO NOT WANT YOU HERE.”
- This video of a white woman with a stroller blocking a Black woman’s car from leaving. (This woman would never block my car—and that’s EXACTLY the problem.)
- Or this video of a different Karen 3000 sitting ON someone's car, blocking her from parking (so she could clear the way for her precious white grand baby.)
- Or the woman who reported a group of Black people for grilling at a park—and waited two hours for the police to come BECAUSE THEY WERE USING A CHARCOAL GRILL IN A PARK, as if that’s a normal thing people do. White people do not police other white people like this!
- Or the woman who called the police on an eight-year-old little Black girl selling bottled water on the sidewalk to fund a trip to Disneyland because she “didn’t have a permit.”
- Or this woman, who is an absolute psycho. This video legitimately scared me. There are actually people out there treating other people this way. Who is this 3000? Who raised her? And why would she ever think it is okay to behave this way? (No, really. Watch that one. It’s the embodiment of carte blanche entitlement.)
- The Karen K-3000 isn’t always about to have a bomb explode in her hippocampus though. Sometimes she speaks sweetly and softly under the guise of being good, GOD LOVIN’ CHRISTIAN, EVERYBODY. Take this video of a woman who walks up to Black man writing “Black Lives Matter” in sidewalk chalk in front of his own property…and accuses him of defacing private property. (She clearly assumed it wasn’t his—and again, were I to be doodling on my sidewalk, that woman would never approach me—or even think to.)
- This Karen had the audacity to call this hotel receptionist a “fucking n*gger,” and then play the victim card when he stands up to her and tells her that she can’t have a room that night—YES, GUY. YES! Good for this guy.
My point here is that these aren’t just regular Karens: these are Trump’s Karens. This is the Karen K-3000. Not everyone who voted for Trump is like this, but everyone who behaves like this absolutely did. And that’s a key insight as to what society is up against: not just unconscious racism, but racism on purpose. Racism performed on purpose, as a weapon, used as a tool. It’s a verbal handgun; a way to “put ‘em in their place” and reiterate their supremacy.
If only humanity could walk out on them the way a battered woman can.
But, we can’t. We're stuck on the planet with ‘em. And eventually you’re going to encounter one—or many. So I’d like to suggest that we handle it the same way this street full of neighbors did in a story that just came out this morning:
Video: a Karen 3000 calling the police on her Black neighbors—while all of the rest of the white neighbors came out to defend them.
That’s civic responsibility. And it’s a responsibility that all of us must take upon ourselves: to use your voice—not just let it sit there, shaking in its boots. We talk a lot about using your voice here at The Middle Finger Project, because it’s the one tool we all have that costs nothing and can take you from a trailer park to Park Avenue. But the challenge now, however, isn’t just to build a business with it: it’s to build a world with it. To build safety. To build citizenry. To build integrity. To build a generation of humans who guard over one another, offering safe harbor in our actions.
If Karen wants to use her privilege as a weapon, then we must use our voice as ours.
You come for those Karens.
You stand up to those Karens.
You tell Karen to pick on people her own (privilege) size, and then you let her have it. You let her see that she’s not on a team. You show her that SHE’S the minority. And you use your voice, over and over again, to dismount that high, high horse she believes is under her as she gleefully trots over human dignity, decency, and all that is good.
Because every word you speak creates hesitation.
Your job is not to change the world over night, but to be a tiny, torturous drip on the forehead. To create persistent moments of doubt and apprehension. To become a social conscience, relentless in moral compass. To challenge the status quo in more important ways than ever.
The word “no” can be the greatest protest of all.
This is your protest.
Your voice is a privilege, just like Karen’s skin.
But Karen’s gonna need a hell of a lot more than that to survive.