UPDATED: 1:41 a.m. ET, May 26 —
One of the many byproducts of the coronavirus pandemic has been the very predictable emergence of white women amplifying their privileges when it comes to exerting their purported moral authorities in reaction to the public health crisis. The people consistently at the center of such disturbing incidents have been playfully dubbed “Karens,” a generic name for the white women being immortalized on the viral videos in which they unwittingly are starring.
Karen’s most recent appearance came in the form of a woman named Amy Cooper who claimed to be deathly afraid of a Black man asking her to put her dog on a leash in a public park in New York City where bird watching is popular. And it was one of the more egregious instances of Karen trying to police a Black person during the coronavirus pandemic.
The incident unfolded early on the Memorial Day holiday after Christian Cooper (obviously, no relation) spotted Karen’s dog off the leash in a part of Central Park called the Ramble. The video begins directly after that and shows Karen, clearly embarrassed at being rightfully called out, reacting mercilessly on both a human and canine levels, fumbling to put the leash on her dog while scrambling to call police at the same time. In doing so, she appeared to be choking, lifting and dragging her dog by the leash.
Karen can be seen and heard repeating in a shaky voice on her phone that “there’s an African American man threatening my life.” Christian Cooper’s video, of course, showed that the only apparent threat came when Karen moved aggressively toward him despite his pleas for her to stop advancing in his direction.
Watch the video below.
An inane social media debate broke out last month over the racial connotation behind the name Karen, with white women claiming it was the “N-word for white women.” But not all of the videos have a racial undertone to them, either, as many of the so-called Karens show just as much negative energy toward their fellow white folks as they do to Black people as the underlying theme each time remains the same — how dare anybody go against what Karen says?
That privileged attitude, however, has not prevailed as it used to not so long ago when an earlier incarnation of the Karens — BBQ Beckys — dominated the news cycle by calling police on Black people who were somehow exhibiting threatening behavior by participating in everyday activities that included but were not limited to having a cookout, selling Girl Scout cookies and studying in a library.
Karens were already rising to infamy before the coronavirus pandemic set in. But as the COVID-19 crisis has continued, so have the Karens, undeterred in getting their points across.
From questioning why a Black police officer was “breaking into” his own home to assaulting workers at a Red Lobster who were only enforcing social distancing guidelines to finding a UPS worker “suspicious” for delivering packages to threatening pharmacy employees, the coronavirus has emboldened Karens across the world.
Another hallmark of the videos of the Karens is the decided absence of police violence from any of them. In one video, a Karen is joined by a throng of other Karens at a playground, one of the many places ruled off-limits during the pandemic. The video opens with a police officer politely and patiently asking the lead Karen to kindly leave since playgrounds were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, especially among the young. But Karen had other ideas and decided to mouth off to the cop, who gave her multiple chances to leave before he finally arrested her.
To be sure, there are male Karens, as well. That much was proven earlier this month when a white man blocked a Black delivery driver from leaving a gated community and called the police over the same kind of misguided suspicions that white folks have been known to have when they see Black and brown skin.
For the full Karen experience of living life feeling like there are no consequences and repercussions for one’s own actions, scroll down for a hearty dose of Karens’ reality as documented on the videos below.