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Sarah Jane Comrie

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The second I read the headline “Don’t Call Her ‘Karen,'” I knew the author was a white woman. I didn’t need to check the byline or the profile picture to know that Pamela Paula woman with two names that could easily serve as substitutes for “Karen” and “male Karen”is a white woman and that she wrote her piece from a perspective that only someone who hasn’t experienced being Black in America could write it from. I knew I’d be reading the thoughts of a Karen defending a Karen from being called a Karen despite the fact that the Karen clearly participated in Karen activities.

For whatever reason, Paul waited until two months after Sarah Jane Comrie aka “Citi Bike Karen” was trending on social media to write an entire op-ed about how she believed Comrie’s side of the story, but not that of the Black teen Comrie was seen on video trying to wrestle a Citi Bike and take a phone from.

Paul began her piece with a mini profile on Comrie, describing her noble efforts as a healthcare professional who worked during the pandemic, in order to humanize Comrie in a way Paul didn’t bother doing for any of the Black male individuals involved in the Citi Bike dispute. (Shocking, I know.)

“Sarah Comrie is a 34-year-old physician assistant from San Diego,” Paul wrote. “After getting a master’s degree from Cornell, she took a job at Bellevue, a public hospital in New York that serves many people that the city’s for-profit hospitals might decline to treat, including the uninsured, the homeless and members of the Rikers Island jail population. In 2020, she was profiled by The Times as one of the workers who risked their health to care for others during the pandemic.”

Then Paul went directly into a tiny violin-worthy spiel about how “Comrie’s life has been turned upside down” and how she “had to hire a lawyer” due to a viral video that showed her doing, well, exactly what she was doing.

Before I go on any further, I need to point out that, in an exclusive interview with NewsOne, Michael, the teen in the video Comrie tried to take the bike from, and his mother, Betty, said they have also received threats and are afraid for the safety of their family.

Betty has seen video after video of racists and trolls calling her son a “thug” and a “thief” and labeling him as a “man” when, in her words, “He’s just a boy.”

It hurts her that people are saying these things — things that she knows are not true — about him.

Betty is upset because she says the narrative has been one-sided.

“No one bothered to contact us to find out Michael’s story,” she said in a low voice during an interview on Wednesday. “They write all of these things about him, but no one bothered to ask him what happened or look at his receipts.”

Michael interjected: “That’s because if they have my side of the story, she doesn’t have a case.”

Mary agreed with him, saying, “Right.”

Throughout the entire 50-minute interview with Betty and her children, she had her phone out watching video after video of conservatives and racists saying negative things about her baby.

She is afraid that someone will try to harm her son or her family.

“No one is helping us,” she said, her voice cracking. “We are poor people. We are immigrants. We can’t afford a lawyer.”

In other words: Sarah Comrie’s life wasn’t the only life that was “turned upside down” after the altercation. Hers is just the most privileged life, and, clearly, the only life Pamela Paul is concerned for.

Most of Paul’s argument in defense of Comrie appears to boil down to the same question white people always ask first in response to Karen videos, police brutality videos, and generally any video that shows Black people being abused or harassed in some way by white people: What happened before the video started?

From Paul’s op-ed:

Without knowing what transpired before the footage began, it’s easy to leap to a judgment about what you’re seeing, depending on your biases. If you view the episode through the lens of sex alone, you might draw one conclusion: A pregnant woman was harassed by a group of teenage boys who wanted her bike. Viewed strictly through the lens of race, a white woman took a bike from a group of Black kids, then tried to get them in trouble.

But crucial questions remain: Did the rental bike belong to the young man, in which case Comrie was in the wrong, inflaming the situation by calling for help — dangerously so, given the charged racial context of a white woman making accusations against a Black man? Did the bike belong to Comrie, in which case the young man was in the wrong, inflaming the situation by bullying and mocking a pregnant woman with his friends? Was Comrie maliciously faking her distress or was she genuinely panicked and upset?

It’s like she almost gets itbut then she doesn’t.

First of all, a rental bike “belongs” to no one. At the end of the day, they were arguing about who got to the bike first. Or, actually, Michael was arguing that he’d already paid for it. Paul pointed out that there may have been some confusion regarding who had the rightful claim to the bike. (She checked the Citi Bike receipts, or whatever.) But that’s not really relevant to why anyone’s calling Comrie a Karen.

Karen could have gotten another bike, one that there would be no dispute over. Or Karen could have kept arguing because she was sure she was in the right and had no obligation to back down. What Karen chose to do was weaponize her whiteness against the Black teens she was sure to receive the benefit of the doubt over. She chose to scream for the help of those passing by, many of whom also hadn’t seen what happened before the video started rolling or what happened before a white woman put herself in the position to be surrounded by the Black teens who Paul believes might have had Comrie “genuinely panicked and upset.” (I’m sorry, but who puts their hands on and snatches a phone from someone they’re terrified of?)

Actually, writer and journalist Monique Judge already explained this perfectly:

This is a white woman who walked into the middle of a group of young Black men (they honestly look like older teens if we are being frank). She tries to physically take a bike from one of them. We see that much on camera.

The people passing by on the street can’t see that, however. What they see is a white woman surrounded by a group of young Black men, and she seems to be in distress. Are they attacking her? Are they harming her? Why are they crowded around her like this? 

Sarah Jane Comrie knew exactly what she was doing when she began yelling. She wanted to draw the wrong type of attention to those young men so she could force them to give her what she wanted — the motorized bike.

She understands that as a white woman, she is always going to be viewed as the victim in any situation. She knows that white comfort is always prioritized over everything else. She is aware that if she makes a loud enough scene, some white man or a cop will come flying in to “rescue” her.

Yes, there was an entire rack of bikes, and there were bikes other than the one Sarah Jane Comrie was trying to steal that were available to her.

Sarah Jane Comrie put her hands on that young man. Sarah Jane Comrie snatched his phone. Sarah Jane Comrie kept trying to take a bike away from him that he already rented and paid for. Then Sarah Jane Comrie lies and accuses him of hurting her “unborn fetus.”

Sarah Jane Comrie initiated the incident. Sarah Jane Comrie walked into that crowd of young Black men. And when Sarah Jane Comrie didn’t get what she wanted, she began screaming and yelling for help as if she had been harmed.

Paul appears to believe it’s Comrie who is on the wrong side of racial privilege in this situation, just because some people on social media and some media outlets classified her as a Karen.

“The choice for a white woman is stark: either not to have any complaints or to shut up about those that you do,” she wrote in a laughable display of ultra-caucasified white feminism. (She’s really out here asking to speak to society’s manager on behalf of Karens.)

Paul is ignoring that in the eyes of the law, the justice system, and the larger Western society, white women will always be the default victim before young Black men (or Black people in general for that matter).

The societal odds are not against Comrie, and Paul would understand this if she weren’t also of the demographic that is most likely to receive the benefit of the doubt.

In the end, all Pamela Paul did was successfully get herself labeled a Karen for her Karen defense of a Karen who was rightfully being called a Karen. (It’s like Inception but for unmitigated white woman entitlement.)

Pamela Paul could have simply let this one go—because, again, it’s been two months—instead she went out of her way to out herself as a fellow Karen.

It’s kind of funny, but also frustrating, as obtuse white people continue to be exhausting.


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