Let’s start by discussing how we got here.
Black people have, for years, and long before it became a social media trend, been calling racist and entitled white women—who can’t stop minding Black people’s business and using the police as their personal negro nuisance removers—typical white woman names like “Karen,” “Carol” and “Susan.” “Karen” is the epithet that stuck after the infamous BBQ Becky incident of 2018 started the media trend of reporting similar stories as if white people policing Black people were some kind of new phenomenon.
You see, a funny thing happens whenever Black people make something popular enough for white people to discover it (*gestures towards almost the entirety of American popular culture*)—White people Columbus the thing Black people created for our own reasons and it becomes theirs to interpret how they will and profit off of how they please.
This brings us to the “Karen” Halloween costume that has recently been making the rounds on Twitter.
It has been confirmed that the costume is, indeed, real and that it’s selling out on platforms like Amazon, but the manufacturer is unclear.
I’m pretty sure they’re white though. After all, a white person was definitely responsible for a similar-yet-much-scarier-looking Karen costume that surfaced last year. So let’s just say for the sake of the most plausible argument that white people are the ones who keep finding ways to profit off of Black pain after Black people turn it into something amusing. (Although, lord, let me find out a Black person is behind this one like the tragic negro who thought noose ties were a good idea.)
As one can imagine, some white people, and particularly white women actually named Karen, have responded to the costume with the usual white tearsy butthurtness that surfaces anytime racism is brought up in general. But we’re not here to talk about them, as white folks like them stay mad about all the wrong things, and, besides, this particular costume is basically indistinguishable from what a lot of white women actually look like. One can only imagine how many white women will don this wig and glasses set for the Halloween festivities only to have most people ask, “So, you decided not to dress up this year?”
Instead, let’s focus on the other side of the backlash and what Black people who are frustrated with our plights being turned into good, wholesome white fun had to say.
There are those who might argue that Black people bear some responsibility for this because we are the ones who started the running “Karen” joke that turned racism into comedy in the first place. But, nah, laughing to keep from crying is something Black folks have always done to keep us in good spirits while we face white America.
It needs to be on white people to understand the stories like that of “SoHo Karen” Miya Ponsetto and “Central Park Karen” Amy Cooper aren’t meant to be sources of entertainment for them. These were Karens who posed an actual threat to Black people and airing them out was supposed to send the message that this kind of behavior will no longer be tolerated.
But whiteness is as whiteness does, and what whiteness does is appropriate Black things, water down the narrative around said things and exploit them for their own benefit—whether we’re talking profit or just “innocent” fun playing white supremacist dress up.
These caucasified Halloween costumes are only the latest example.