In Which Karen Is a Karen

July 17, 2020
 
 

I recently read both the article "Implicit Bias Training for Woke Faculty" and the newly formed “Letter to the Editor” commentary response "Don’t Demean All Karens and Chads." I will note that this is both a moment in which a woman actually named Karen does become a Karen and a moment in which keeping it real goes wrong.

In other words, perhaps eliminating the comments section for a whole published “Letters to the Editor” was not, in fact, the best move.

In the heading for "Implicit Bias Training for Woke Faculty," the words “satiric look” are clearly posted should author Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt’s dripping sarcasm fail to be clear throughout the well-written article. To be sure, there are subtleties that were likely missed by most of the “woke” white faculty to whom the author was writing. I would invite those readers to take a closer look and consider each memo point diligently to ask themselves, have I committed these faux pas?

In response, Karen Hodges became offended by the line stating, “if you are Becky, Karen, Susan, Chad or Kyle…”. It is noted that we all realize Ms. Hodges was assigned the name Karen at birth without her consent or awareness that the name Karen would later become a label used to describe a certain type of deplorable person weaponizing whiteness to put POC in harm’s way. In this instance words, punctuation, and phrasing matter, and the difference, I would wager, comes in the fact that the author of "Implicit Bias Training for Woke Faculty," an English Professor, is practiced at her craft.

In fact, it was not written that “if you are named”, and it could have been written that “if you are a…” which may have been less offensive to the Karen’s and Chad’s of the world. However, the original author was clearly speaking of a type of person who would be easily offended and then demand action to satisfy personal feelings. This is the definition of a Karen, and this is exactly what Ms. Hodges then did by her lack of understanding of the article as a whole and subsequent demand of removal of the article and an apology to the Karen’s and Chad’s of the world.

In a world where there is a comments section, Ms. Hodges would have made her post stating her offense to the line and would have been descended upon by the internet masses who would have made short work of her Karen-ness and educated her about the difference between being named Karen and acting like one. While these are two different things, Ms. Hodges definitely crossed that line. It is true that the internet comments section is not always a lovely place, but it is beneficial for these moments wherein a person makes a clearly ludicrous statement in need of a quick and hearty rebuttal. Instead, Ms. Hodges was allowed a platform to become the Karen that she was perhaps aptly named at birth without her consent.

As the term Karen has made its way into mainstream terminology, those given the name at birth had the opportunity to take these moments in stride, remark at the problematic nature of sweeping generalization (which would have been Ms. Hodges better move), or balk at the notion and complain, thus ascending into the term rather than simply being the holder of a name that had taken on the life of its own. By rising up to complain about a now slang term being used as a label, the Karen’s and Chad’s of the world, demanding reparations for imagined slights, fully assume Ms. Dutt-Ballerstadt’s characterization of “observe, fume and explode”. In the end, Karen’s going to Karen.

--Lauren Solina
Coordinator of Special Programs for Correctional Education
Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro

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