The proliferation of Karens may have coincided with the pandemic, but, obviously, the concept of entitled white women exerting and weaponizing their purported privileges in a misguided attempt at wielding moral authority over Black people is far from new.
Karens have effectively become a pop-cultural phenomenon despite (because of?) their undeniable roots in white supremacy. The year 2021 is overwhelming proof of that truth, complete with a “Karen” movie that was released on BET as well as a popular “Karen” Halloween costume that was flying off the shelves in yet another indication that racism still means big money for big businesses.
But throughout those isolated byproducts of “Karens” has been a steady stream of video evidence showing Karens Karening in the most outrageous and egregious of manners that would make Amy “Central Park Karen” Cooper proud. Remember her?
That was then, though, and this is now; and “now” includes the Karens Class of 2021 revealing themselves in the most likely and unlikely places, including, but certainly not limited to, on airplanes, during school board meetings, at dog parks, on the subway, at NBA games, in retail stores, in parking garages, and, sadly, way too many other places to mention here.
From having the brazen audacity to utter everything from the N-word in very public forums to falsely accusing Black people of crimes, keep reading to find the most outrageous “Karen” moments of the year.
Stephanie Denaro was with her three young children, including one in a baby stroller, when she was denied service at Davidovich Bakery in New York City in March because she refused to wear a mask while ordering bagels. Citing an unspecified “medical problem” that she said prevented her from wearing a mask, Denaro was recorded on video responding to the bakery’s Black male employee refusal of service by calling him a “bitch ass nigger,” complete with the hard R. “That’s what he is! That’s what he is!” she insisted to other shoppers before proudly repeating the racist epithet: “I just said it!” What’s even wilder: Denaro’s children are biracial whose father is a Black man.
There’s something about air travel that just brings the inner Karen out of some white women, as evidenced on a Spirit Airlines flight in September, and another glaring incident in December. First, on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, no less, an older white woman passenger mistakenly dropped her luggage on a younger white woman after the flight landed in Detroit. When the younger woman began cursing at the older woman, Aicha Toure, a Black Muslim woman, intervened to defend the older woman as having made a mistake. That’s when the “Spirit Airlines Karen” was apparently summoned by her ancestors.
“You F-in Muslim terrorist, nobody’s talking to you,” Karen told Toure. “Mind your business!” She then assaulted Toure before being arrested once she deboarded the plane. The video for this instance has blurred the face of “Spirit Airlines Karen,” but a screenshot lives on in infamy to document her
Two months later, the mid-flight Karen shenanigans came in the form of white-on-white violence when a woman named Patricia Cornwall was so angry about having the plane’s aisle blocked by a flight attendant’s beverage cart that she ended up assaulting an elderly white man who rightfully told her to “Sit down, Karen” after she dared to compare her purported plight to Rosa Parks’. Yes, really. Long story short: The FBI ended up arresting her.
School Committee Karen
In September in suburban Boston, Donna Loiacano voiced her objections to Dr. Kenann McKenzie — a Black woman adjunct professor and Director of the Aspire Institute at Boston University’s Wheelock College who earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University — being on a school committee and suggested it was only to address the panel’s lacking diversity. “How does she get on the board?” Loiacano asked about McKenzie during a school board meeting before suggesting it was only because of the school district’s director of opportunity, access, and equity. Loiacano, who was immediately dubbed “School Committee Karen,” was forced to apologize.
Dog Park Karen
A Black couple and their dog at a dog park in Brooklyn filmed an unidentified white woman—we’ll just call her “Dog Park Karen”—telling them to “stay in your hood” during a spat over the couple’s dog, which they said Karen had mistaken for some other dog. It was one of this year’s many instances of white women trying to police Black people and provided a real-time example of gentrification at work.
After the video of the encounter went viral, the CEO for the company that “Dog Park Karen” worked for tweeted that he fired her.”
An unidentified Karen riding on the New York City subway was recorded on video screaming at two Black men for apparently being too close to her. She called them a “piece of s**t” and “garbage” just before getting up from her seat and assaulting one of them. According to reports, “Subway Karen” hit one of the Black men in the face with her iPad, which resulted in him hitting her back and then exiting the subway car as she proceeds to hit him again repeatedly. She also tried to grab a bag the other man was holding. Amid the struggle, she spilled the food contents of the bag, prompting the second Black man to open his bottle of soda and spray it all over her face. It was truly a moment to behold.
Since the emergence of Karens, we have learned that not all of them are women. In addition to male Karens (they’re called Kens), they can be teenagers. That truth was never more evident than last month in Fort Worth, Texas, where an unidentified female student at Castleberry High School was shown on video assaulting her Black teacher and then picking up the landline telephone on the teacher’s desk to call her mother and have her talk to her teacher because, the teen said, the teacher is “Black and she’s f****** pissing me off.” You really can’t make most of this up.
And while white folks have always racially profiled Black shoppers in retail settings, a woman who earned the nickname “California Karen” took things to a new and improved level of implicit bias when she was recorded on video at a Spencer’s at Sunrise Mall in suburban Sacramento accusing a Black man of stealing her cellphone that she ultimately found in her own purse she was holding all along even though she had purportedly checked it multiple times.
There’s much more to the story than that, but suffice to say that this Karen’s racist false accusations were enough to bring the brightest of blushes to even the face of “SoHo Karen,” another California woman named Miya Ponsetto who made her own headlines in late 2020 for falsely accusing jazz musician Keyon Harrold and his namesake 14-year-old son of stealing her cellphone in New York City.
Parking Garage Karen
In a rare case of Karens being brought to justice, a white woman named Bitsy Brennan was fired and her son was arrested following their violent confrontation with a Black man in an apartment complex parking garage in Nashville in November. They promptly interrogated the Black man, who was simply doing his job and checking for parking permits in the garage, demanding for him to identify himself and tell them how he gained entry. The overarching implications couldn’t have been any clearer: The mother and son duo suspected the Black man of an unspecified crime even though he was only guilty of literally minding his own business.
In two separate but very related instances, basketball superstar LeBron James had contentious interactions with two different Karens who tried to verbally attack him while sitting courtside at NBA games in which he was playing. In both cases, he got them kicked out of each arena, including “Courtside Karen,” a white woman identified as Juliana Carlos who earned her nickname from LeBron after she pulled down her mask to trash-talk him in Atlanta in February.
She and her “ol steroid ass” husband were promptly ejected from the game.
Nearly 10 months later, Bron had to lend the same treatment to another entitled white couple for making a disgusting remark about his son; one that Donald “Ken” Trump Jr. eagerly co-signed.
This is America.
Here’s hoping for a drastic reduction of Karen moments in 2022 and beyond.