The Karen March

Posted online and watched by millions of people, Karen’s video offers a sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy in which racism is actually puni...


Posted online and watched by millions of people, Karen’s video offers a sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy in which racism is actually punished. It’s a fantasy not only for people of color but also for whites, who are among the most vocal in their denunciations of Karen, perhaps seeking to distance themselves from any suggestion that they might be complicit in her actions or capable of doing them. To go even further: it is the fantasy of a white man that racism is only an affair of a few semi-hysterical characters, perhaps mentally unstable, fulminating on the sidelines, dismissed with a simple stroke of screen.

ONLY KAREN WAS NEVER AN ANOMALY. Miss Ann (sometimes Miss Anne) was his precursor, coming from the vernacular of the 19th century Southern blacks – the mistress of the plantation, the patron (and proto-patroness), with a compulsory honorary title. While subordinate to the white man (Mr. Charlie), she still held a higher status in the hierarchy than blacks and exploited it at its fair value, alternately imperious and delicate, bellicose and powerless according to the context. The nickname persisted: writer Zora Neale Hurston listed it in a glossary appended to his short 1942 fiction “History in Harlem Slang, “memorialist and civil rights activist Maya Angelou deployed it in her poem”Sepia fashion show”In 1969 (“ Remind them please, look at those knees, / you had Miss Ann’s rubbing ”) and until 2016, when CNN’s exit polls for the presidential election indicated that over 40 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump, journalist Amy Alexander, written on the root, explained the results as “the Miss Ann effect”.

But as Carla Kaplan, professor of American literature, notes in “Miss Anne in Harlem(2013), by the Harlem Renaissance era of the 1920s, a more subtle white woman had come to gain the name – a woman who intentionally entered black spaces at a time when other whites denounced such an act “like degeneration or madness.” Some of these women were activists, others mere thrill seekers or provocateurs, their motivations and desires ranging “from terrible to honorable,” Kaplan writes, and they were greeted with caution in the black community.

Likewise, today’s Karen contains multitudes. His bias is not necessarily obvious; she may believe that she does not have one. She’s the perfectly comfortable liberal white girlfriend with the cop asking her black boyfriend for ID, relying on his whiteness to prevent violence, and at the same time a psychopath who sees blacks as bad. simple vehicles for white people to flourish, as in Jordan Peele’s 2017 film. , “Get out. “She is bipartisan, both a conservative TV show host Megyn kelly, growing nostalgic in 2018 for a time when blackface was ‘OK’, and progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren, who, as a law professor in the 1980s and 1990s, identified herself as Native American (and was minority status) based solely on family folklore relating to a distant ancestor of at least six generations.

Widen the lens and any white woman – all white woman – could be a Karen, if seen to take for granted the benefits of her skin color and ignore the work and suffering of others. Earlier this year, Rachel Hollis, a best-selling author of self-help books, has been criticized as “timeless” for having a housekeeper whom she casually described as someone who “cleans the toilet.” She defended herself by saying that she worked very hard to be able to afford a cleaning lady – “most people don’t work that hard” – then made an implicit comparison between herself and other “unknown” women, such as American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and made it her mission to help others do the same, and award-winning Pakistani activist of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban for denouncing the limits imposed on girls’ education. To blithely presume a kinship with such luminaries was both shocking and revealing of the illusions of grandeur which make these women Karen.

Even the young feminist heroines of the 2019 film ”Booksmart”Could be considered Karens: ex-good girls jonesing for a night of debauchery, who cite civil rights activist Rosa Parks as a role model for breaking the rules, although in their case it just means drinking and partying , then joke with the cops when one of them gets arrested the next morning. Karen’s ghost also sparkles in almost every character played by actress Reese Witherspoon, from relentless teenage girl Tracy Flick in “Election“(1999) to the domineering and narcissistic mothers of the television series”Big little lies“(2017-19) and”Small fires everywhere“(2020). Arguably part of Witherspoon’s bankability as a movie star is her ability to bring nuance and empathy to these characters – to enable an audience of overwhelmingly and equally privileged women to come together. recognize, rebuke and ultimately forgive a dark side of themselves.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The Karen March
The Karen March
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