There is a lot of history happening right now. I can forgive you for missing the memo that white women do not like being called Karen.

The CBS Morning Show dedicated an entire segment to explaining the internet meme to middle America.

Karen is a white woman that the dominant culture and its attendant institutions have deputized to police the everyday existence of non-white people. The diminuitive name should not be confused for importance. Karens are the soft power arm of the criminal justice system. Karens may not control the forces that displace people from their neighborhoods or drain local schools of their resources or push minority people into the economic margins. But, Karens sharpen the focus of those forces, moving the arm of the police state like a cat parent torturing its ward with a laser pointer.

Karen calls the police on Black people who are minding their business. The police can kill us, but Karen can make the police aim at us. Karen is only funny in the most macabre way, for a people who have elevated such humor to high art.

The problem, as usual in such things, is that the signifier has become the object.

Black culture created the label Karen, but white culture created Karen. One of those is resistance. The other is aggression. Guess which one offends white sensibilities the most?

Some white women believe that patriarchal forces have turned the Karen signifier into a misogynistic slur. As usual, white society’s intra-cultural issues become a problem for Black people’s right to name the violence done to us.

That CBS Morning news segment wants us to wait for Karen to get her share of the power in white patriarchy before we name her as a defender of racism.

It is a very Karen thing to do.

We are in week 14 or 16 of nationwide protests against police violence, mass incarceration and capitalist exploitation.

Karen’s problem with being Karen will simply have to wait while we solve the problem of Karens.


Roxane and I are back to Hear to Slay this week after our summer hiatus. Like many of you, we needed some time in community to hold space for grief, tragedy and — yes — joy.

Black joy is resplendent in its ability to flourish anywhere and under any conditions. We tap that this season with a little help from our friends.

First up is a round-up with some essential workers. Then we talk to Rashad Robinson of Color of Change. I wondered if those online petitions we get in our inboxes do anything. Rashad had a surprising answer about the eco-system of pulling the levers of change from our inboxes.

Tune in to find out if we broke down and got our hair done during the Rona.

Sociologist. Writer. Professor. MacArthur Fellow. Books, speaking, podcast: