According to the internet, a “Karen” is defined as, “a pejorative term used in the United States and other English-speaking countries for a woman perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary.”
To be perfectly honest with you, before the hot mess on wheels that is 2020, I never even heard of the term Karen despite knowing and having dealt with plenty of them over the years!
Unfortunately, the public narrative has reduced Karen’s to comic relief, and used them to shift blame from systemic racism and reducing it to being nothing more than a mild annoyance embodied by individuals. Karen is now a punchline. This is problematic. Why? Because it undermines just how common and dangerous Karens are to Black people.
Don’t believe me? Look no further than the super-Karen that is Amy Cooper , a white woman who called the cops on what seems to be the least threatening Black man in the history of Black men, Chris Cooper. I mean the guy is a bird watcher for the love of baby Jesus!
When they interviewed Chris Cooper (no relation, obviously), the guy summed up the entire situation very clearly, “Unfortunately, she pulled the pin off the hand grenade of race and tried to lob it at me. And instead, it blew up in her face!”
And now, she is rightfully facing LEGAL charges! Personally, I think she should be charged with a felony-level hate crime to make her an example to every Karen or would be Karen.
But, one type of Karen is missing from this conversation, the corporate Karen. What about them?
For most Black people, our interactions with Karens happen at work and come in the form of managers, co-workers, and even HR itself. The consequences of working and dealing with Karens can impact Black professionals' mental health, prevent advancement, and even getting them fired.
What Are the Signs of a Karen:
They attempt to gaslight you- Previously, I’ve written about professional gaslighting, what it is, and why it happens. Karens are notorious for gaslighting those they feel threatened by, which is usually a feeling with no basis of truth.
They use the phrase (or any form of) ‘I Feel Threatened’- When caught, many Karens like to play the victim by claiming they felt ‘threatened’ by a Black person’s action as if that justifies their actions, but there’s usually nothing threatening. Karen’s self-victimization often works because Black people are rarely given the benefit of the doubt or seen as victims.
They Cc the manager or any higher-ups- Karens love pulling this trick at work, Ccing the manager on any and all communications with you. This is done as a power move meant to silence you or at the very least intimidate you. In my whole career, I have never felt the need to bring in senior leadership for petty reasons. But, Karens don’t care, they just want to get their way.
They use HR like their own personal police- Karens love HR (trust me, I know) and often try to leverage HR when dealing with others. To be honest, there are a few Karens in HR
So, how can you protect yourself from the horde that is corporate Karens? Honestly, this fight is two-fold, companies need to work to change their corporate culture, hold problematic employees accountable, and develop an inclusive environment. Black employees shouldn’t bear this burden alone, if at all. We didn’t create Karens, and so it’s not our sole responsibility to fix them.
As for Black employees, I always say trust your instincts when dealing with your managers and coworkers, keep documentation, and address issues from a proactive stance instead of a reactive one.