Behind every successful man is a strong, determined woman. The most dangerous threat to the liberty and freedom of black people in America is Karen. She is responsible for widespread, systemic brutality and killing. However, in the same breath she becomes a chameleon and expertly plays the victim, in the hopes the oppressor or empathic black people will save her.
Karen, Karen, Karen you have been quite the problematic bee. Unraveling the very civil liberties that gives the poor, oppressed, and disenfranchised an opportunity to improve their existence. To receive a mere fraction of the privilege and opportunities you have taken advantage of and take for granted. While the term Karen has been coined for almost a year, the archetype Karen has been around since the birth of the U.S. In case you have been out of the country for the last year, here is the reader’s digest version of what Karen is.
According to dictionary.com, Karen is a mocking slang term for an entitled, obnoxious, middle-aged white woman. Especially as featured in memes, Karen is generally stereotyped as having a blonde bob haircut, asking to speak to retail and restaurant managers to voice complaints or make demands, and being a nagging, often divorced mother from Generation X.
Throughout the centuries, Karen has been a threat to the freedoms of minorities, especially Black people. Specifically in America, generations of Karens have been responsible for the countless false accusations that led to the castration and lynchings of black men in the south.
For the sake of context and consistency, the term Karen will be used to show examples throughout history where women have supported, enabled, and perpetuated white supremacy. What makes Karen so problematic and in some situations deadly is her need to impose her privilege on those who cannot defend themselves.
When you read about the brutality slave owners inflicted on Black people, the behaviors are often associated with White men. Very few historical accounts document the violent brutality Karen participated in. Despite Karen having limited rights herself she is either owned by her father and when she married that ownership transferred to her husband. Karen’s sexuality is not hers to own. Sex with her husband was primarily reserved for the purpose of conception. She can’t be open with her sexuality and she cannot be prudish. While her slave owner husband is raping female slaves and forcing them to bear the slave owners children, Karen must remain pure. This inconsistency would be frustrating today; in the antebellum period it resulted in Karen projecting her rage onto defenseless slaves.
While most academic literature paints the slave owner’s wife as a helpless bystander, to the contrary she was a co-enabler of slavery. Karen most likely entered her marriage with slaves of her own. As a little girl,she was given a slave to serve as a playmate. According to Becky Little author of , “The Massive, Overlooked Role of Female Slave Owners
It’s estimated that 40 percent of slave owners may have been white women.” The more slaves Karen owned the better her chances for an economically beneficial marriage. The slaves she brought with her were a form of dowry when she married. It is no secret the more slaves an owner possessed, the higher he stacked in the social and economic ladder.
Despite Karen’s participation of owning slaves herself, rage and jealousy is responsible for the deaths and sale of slave infants. If the slave woman garnered the genuine affections of the slave owner, the poor slave woman was the target of Karen’s rage. There were cases where the brutal rape of slave women was enabled by Karen. Let’s get one thing clear: the sexual relationship between a slave woman and the owner has never been a consensual extramarital affair. It’s rape. Period. The slave woman either complied with the rape or was sold off for saying no. The slave woman was subjected to brutal beatings from the wife and repeated rape from the husband. The situation is lose lose. But if Karen were to engage in a sexual relationship with a male slave, the very purpose of slavery and freedom were threatened.
Upperclass White Women struggled with Reconstruction. Without the protection of their husbands and the freedom of slaves they were forced to do laborious tasks themselves. See during the time of slavery Black women did everything Karen didn’t want to do. Care for her babies from breastfeeding to teaching the child the basics. Black women did all the cooking, cleaning, serving, and sexual tasks while Karen just managed the household. When slavery ended, Karen was left to do it all. This was a huge culture shock for her.
During the Reconstruction period women were also trying to find their place and independence. Karen on the other hand was trying, both consciously and subconsciously, to undermine the newfound freedom of African Americans. Playing into the White Man’s fears of Black Men corrupting the purity of the White Woman. This is where playing victim became a tool of psychological warfare against Black households in the South.
The role of Karen during Reconstruction is responsible for the erection of Confederate statues throughout the south. Daughters of the Confederacy were primarily responsible for the “reeducation of the Civil War”. The narrative “States Rights” was driven by Karen. While reshaping the narrative of why the Civil War was fought, Karen also manipulated recently freed slaves into entering a form of indentured servitude by downplaying slavery as being less than what it actually was.
“I do not believe that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.”
For every moment fought to advance the progression of women. Karen is there to oppose it. She is often married, upper class and privileged. Riding on the coat tails of her husband’s power. Even though she is subjected to the same level of oppression. She is often unaware of her gilded cage.
While the Women’s suffrage movement was forming, Karen sought to derail it. Actually Karen was on both sides of the women’s rights movement. The momentum truly picked up when Congress gave Black Men the right to vote before a White Woman. That didn’t sit too well with women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Contrary to what the history books say, the fact a Negro man had more rights to participate in politics than her, despite fighting along side Fredrick Douglas did not go over well.
Karen deeply opposed the first women’s rights movement because it posed a threat to her status. A woman’s place was in the home, raising children. Going to school, working, getting involved in politics was for the men. Karen felt women lacked the mental aptitude for complex thinking. As the Women’s Suffage gained more members and popularity so did the Anti-Women’s Suffage.
Civil Rights Movement
Prior to the civil rights movement of 1954, being Black in the south was more than just the fight for integration. It was about navigating from one point to another without the fear of being randomly lynched just because. Imagine living in a time where you can be pulled out of your bed in the middle of the night, murdered, strung from a tree in front of your home because you didn’t acknowledge a white man earlier that day.
What got you castrated and murdered was Karen accusing a Black Man of looking towards her direction. All Karen had to do was say a Black Man looked at her in a sexual manner and his death sentence was signed. An unfortunate victim of Karen’s false accusation was Emmitt Till. He was only a child when he was accused of whistling at Karen.
Modern Day Karen
The modern day Karen is going harder and stronger than ever. She is in the forefront to unravel everything from the right to choose to being Black and living. Even though the connotation “Karen” has only been around for a year, her actions in the enabling and participation of White Supremacy and the oppression of other women and minorities is nothing new. Karen has weaponized law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a tool for her own selfish gains. She is willing to to risk the lives of others for her superficial personal pleasures. While most would associate extreme violence and racism with men; Karen is passive aggressive. She expertly utilizes the helpless white woman trope to push her agenda. Karen knows White Supremacy Groups view her as some pure innocent trophy to protect from Black aggression. Despite her being the provocateur, once the police arrive she will flip the narrative like a switch and become the victim.
Karen’s Opposition to Personal Choice
One of my favorite pizzas is a BBQ Chicken with pineapples. It’s grilled chicken, BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, mozzarella, bacon, and pineapples. There’s no tomato sauce, only BBQ sauce. Folks think pineapples on pizza are wrong. Personally I don’t care. It’s my money that pays for it, my body it’s going into, my taste buds that are enjoying the complex flavor notes. While some may find this combo odd, or gross it’s not affecting you and your loved one. Yet Karen wants to be all up in arms about something that has absolutely nothing to do with her. If it was possible Karen would call the police on me for having pineapples on my pizza that I paid for with my money.
When it comes to wearing a mask to protect herself and the health of others. A decision that will greatly affect those who come in contact with her. Karen thinks it’s infringing on her rights. Yet Karen is worried about what toppings I put on my pizza but doesn’t care if she infects hundreds if not thousands of people with a roughly 8% fatality rate. It’s interesting that individual decisions like Roe v Wade, being Black, or putting pineapples on a pizza will have her so triggered. But asking Karen to wear a mask to reduce the spread of a highly contagious disease is grounds to verbally and physically assault employees.
Karen will support the very institution that views her gender as a second class citizen and restricts her own choices regarding her body and autonomy as a person. This was a very broad historical account on how through the centuries Karen has been problematic for everyone. Covering every social change would turn into a 10,000 word book. As long as racism, misogyny, and bigotry exists, Karen will be there to benefit from its effects.