The Flip Side of Karening

Many Wypipo are “strong” Karens, but many more are “weak” Karens.

One would think, given the civil disobedience against systemic White supremacy that we are living or dying through, that White Women would be self-aware enough to simply refrain from Karenism until this moment passes. (This moment passes immediately Biden and a Black woman Veep get elected, because of course, the US will then be post-racial all over again, this time with the added bonus of also being post-misogynist!)

But no, Karens will continue Karening along. This time it is a “cosmetics CEO in liberal SF” (Have you seen the poverty and the homelessness, who TF thinks SF is liberal, except when it comes to sex?”) threatening to call police on a non-White man for chalking “Black Lives Matter” on his own wall. The CEO Lisa Alexander (Say her name, and that of every other Karen and Gaared who displays their racism, let’s remember the victimizers as well, so their names are perpetuated in history, so their communities know them and their descendants know where they came from.) when called out on social media, is all woke and contrite, “how truly sorry I am for being disrespectful … I should have minded my own business.”. No you idiot, you weren’t just being disrespectful. You were threatening, racist, aggressive and you endangered the life of a person of color by calling the cops on them. And it is not about “minding your own business”, it is about your being a racist.

We know that White and White-passing cops are selected for their venality

(Thanks to Orion Hunter.), so they just can’t stop themselves from doing what they’ve always done, but you would think that Karens would have some minimum intelligence test to live in “the wealthy Pacific Heights neighborhood.” I guess not.

So yeah there are some Karens who can’t help displaying their Karenism: calling the cops on Black girls selling water, Black families having a BBQ, Black bird-watchers reminding them of the law, allowing your husband to murder a Black child in ostensible defense of your ostensible virtue … But this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Human behavior isn’t binary, Karen vs. not Karen, it lies along a continuum. If there are so many Wypipo extreme enough to publicly display their “strong” Karenism as above, there are many more who live “weak” Karenism.

“Strong” vs. “Weak” Karening

If by “strong” Karenism we mean using your privilege to deny Black people safe lives by calling on law enforcement to “protect” you, then by “weak” Karenism I mean using your White privilege to break laws knowing that you’ll never face serious consequences.


  • Suburban white kids trying to set trees on fire, drinking behind houses and vandalising property of away homeowners. “Boys will be boys.”, when I called the cops, they didn’t even bother showing up. But on a separate occasion, two patrol cars showed up to investigate a daytime “Neighbourhood Watch” report of a young Black woman running. Presaging Ahmaud Arbery.
  • White sports fans overturning cars, setting buses on fire, rioting, looting, etc in a drunken celebration. Adult or college-age fans, it doesn’t matter. “They have to let off steam.” Why don’t the city police kettle them, gas them, rubber bullet them, baton charge them, arrest them …?
  • White people sunbathing, breaking shelter in place restrictions, getting free masks, while Black people get a foot to their neck.
  • In the local parks, Wypipo heading in to hike, leaving their cars and the trailheads, going shopping at AWholeFoods, minutes before the start of curfew.
  • On the hiking trails, it is invariably Wypipo who disregard the “One-way” trail signs or “no picnicking” signs. When you call them on it, they pull the usual “I didn’t see it!” pretense, though there are signs at the entrance to the park, in the parking lot, on the website, on the trail map, at the trailhead and at the entrance to the trails. There is a Physics reason the one-way trails don’t make any sense whatsoever from the perspective of lowering viral infection rates, but I still obey the law, first because I don’t want to cause concern, even unjustified, to other people sharing the path and second, of course, though I am mostly white-passing and not under the most dire threat from cops, I’m not sure that my WhiteSuit is impermeable to a law enforcer choosing to enforce their authority on me.
  • White bikers on “No Bikes” trails. Yes, the outdoors so-white and biking so-white, perhaps there isn’t much opportunity for Bikers of Color to break the rules. But still, white bikers bike on “No Bikes” trails without a care in the world. It has always bugged me, but my attitude is mostly of tolerance for low levels of abuse rather than authoritarian absolutism. There will always be “rule-breakers”, and if the cost is relatively low (encountering one or two bikers per day on trails that are wide enough for my kids and me to step aside, on non-muddy days etc.) a civil society will tolerate it and hope for the community to educate and regulate itself.

… and what to do about it

A few days ago, my daughter and I were hiking in one of the nearby county parks. Since playgrounds, movie theatres, museums, zoos, gyms etc are closed, there are a lot more people hiking than pre-Covid. On this short beautiful walking-only trail, near the trailhead, we were passing family groups every few 10s of meters. In the middle of this, at a narrow rocky switchback, we were blocked by a white woman biker insistently trying to ride her bike up this trail through throngs of hikers. I told her, “This trail is not for bikes, you shouldn’t be here, there are signs all over.”

Image for post
Image for post
You can’t just bike through without getting off, so you can’t claim not to have seen the sign. Within a 100 or so yards, the trail switchbacks down a steep wooded hillside, and is too narrow for even two people to pass each other without stepping off. This is the shortest trail near the parking lot, popular with families with little children.

Only my calling her out made her stop, get off her bike, mumble some half-assed non-apology and start walking her bike.

My daughter had tensed up, I noticed it, they asked me something, mentioned my tone and we had a discussion.

Lately, I’ve become extremely intolerant of this. Black people aren’t allowed to lead their legal lives without Wypipo calling down the hammer of justice on them. Black people are calling out Wypipo rule-breakers and being threatened with death (administered extra-judicially by state-sponsored uniformed terrorists). That is just intolerable. Why should Wypipo get away with this without at least being forced to confront the privilege that allows them to do so? Why should only Black people have the responsibility of calling out racist/privileged White behavior? Isn’t that the minimum I can do as a non-Black POC, be that angry person on the trails, in the office and elsewhere? Be willing to face the stares of uncomfortable Wypipo? Shouldn’t I be willing to call out the racism at work, of our SouthAsian woman manager making racist hiring decisions, of the middle-management Karens “solving the problems of educating Black kids”, and risk losing my job to the consequent metastasized White Fragility?

I am also not responsible for “tone”. You are responsible for your own racist behavior. I am already doing you the favor of calling it out and creating a learning moment. Deal with the tone and use the learning moment to educate yourself. Other people have to deal with a lot more than your “tone”.

As a white or white-passing wanna-be ally, do your part, call out people from your own community (however you identify that) for their weak- or strong- Karen behavior. That is a burden you can take off the shoulders of Black people, so they don’t have to risk the consequences of having to either tolerate the aggression or call it out by themselves. For heterosexual, as a man, you wouldn’t say misogyny is a woman’s problem to fix, that it is enough for you to “not be misogynistic”. As a woman, you wouldn’t tolerate that excuse from your male partner (though I suspect Karens do — the benefits of racism for white women outweigh the costs of misogyny.)

Get up, stand up, participate in the fight!

I stop to miau to cats.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store