The term “Karen” to describe certain white women who exhibit extreme privileged entitled behavior began on social media and is quickly becoming part of today’s lexicon. As my guests in this episode of “Everyday Conversations on Race” explain, the archetype of a “Karen” would be a white woman who goes to Starbucks, usually dressed a certain way and expects to be treated like the only customer. When the barista spells her name wrong, she demands to see the manager and must have a new cup.
However, a group of white women complain that the term is “racist towards white women, ageist and classist. They are demanding the end of this term.
In this Conversation on Race, I’m joined by two women named Karen, who share their perspective on calling certain white women “Karens” for their white privilege behavior.
Karen Fleshman is a white woman, who founded the organization “Racy Conversations,” an anti-racist group. She has written about the term and why she agrees with it. In this conversation on race, this Karen shares her background and how she came to be an active, outspoken anti-racist.
Commissioner Karen Clopton is an African-American woman who grew up in South Central Los Angeles. It was segregated by race but had a mix of professionals and working-class people. She is a member of the SF Civil Rights Commission. She shares her experience as a young Black woman in a family that taught her early on about what it meant to be Black growing up in the USA.
- Is it racist against white people, sexist against white women or ageist against white women to use the descriptor “Karen” to describe entitled behavior by certain white women.
- How to talk about racism to white people
- Why not talking about race and racism to children is racist
- The way racism has been institutionalized since the founding of the US
- How white people by default are beneficiaries of racism and have privilege as a result
- Why white supremacists think they are shielded from COVID
- Bringing the controversy to light of the “Karen” phenomena
- What the term “Karen” means when it refers to actions of some white women
- Why the two Karens don’t take offense at the term and why they think it’s justified
- What “peak Karen” looks like
- If you would like to see a “Karen” in action, look for the video of Amy Cooper, a white woman walking her unleashed dog in Central Park in an area that clearly stated dogs must be leashed because it was a habitat for birds. When an African-American man who was there to study birds asked her to leash her dog, she threatened him and called the police saying she was afraid for her life of an African-American man harassing her.
An award-winning trailblazer, Karen Valentia Clopton brings deep knowledge, demonstrated operational expertise, and non-partisan insight into the political and regulatory arenas. She has served in top leadership, board, and executive roles in both governmental and non-governmental organizations across many regulated industries. General Counsel and Vice President of Access and Inclusion for Incendio International, Inc. and a nationally recognized civil rights advocate, she also serves as a San Francisco Human Rights Commissioner.
Karen Fleshman is the founder of Racy Conversations and is a racial equity trainer and government accountability activist striving to build and support a community of people committed to love, learning, accountability, and action on race in America. She is the author of the book White Women, We Need to Talk: Doing Our Part to End Racism