The saga of “Citi Bike Karen” is a tale as old as time. A white woman feels slightly inconvenienced by a Black person or person of color and instead of walking away, they choose to dramatically weaponize their race. This behavior has led to the popular use of the term “Karen,” which sole purpose is to call out this group and their harmful behavior.
In this case, Sarah Comrie—a pregnant hospital worker—could have chosen to walk away from a dispute over a rented bike with a Black man. Instead, she screamed help, insisted that he was harming her unborn child and summoned tears seemingly out of nowhere. Whether she rented the bike or not is irrelevant: Comrie intentionally used her identity as a white woman to endanger the life of a Black person.
In this case, her racist antics were caught on camera, Comrie is being referred to as “Citi Bike Karen” and she was placed on leave from her job. Because whiteness is the ultimate shield of protection, over $120,000 was raised for Comrie through a GoFundMe created by her uncle. Luckily, the person in the video who was accused of violence by the hospital employee was able to walk away unscathed.
However, in the case of Emmett Till—the 14-year-old Black boy who in 1955 was falsely accused by Carolyn Bryant of whistling at her—the outcome was vastly different. Till was murdered by white men incensed at the lie that he disrespected a white woman. You can’t a fix a societal problem, especially one with ugly historical roots, without naming it. “Karen” was devised to address the American epidemic of white women using their privilege to punish people who are marginalized.
We saw it with Amy Cooper, who spotted Black bird-watcher Christian Cooper in Central Park and called the cops on him. We saw it when a white woman noticed 9-year old Bobbi Wilson spraying lanternflies in her New Jersey neighborhood and immediately informed authorities of the child’s “suspicious” activity. We saw it when a white woman observed Gregory McAdory and his friend shoveling snow while Black and called the police.
We saw it when Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman was “aggressive” and made her feel “threatened” during a disagreement in front of the Capitol. When conservatives like Fox News’ Will Cain insist Karen is a “new racial slur for white women,” they are merely doing everything in their power to avoid accountability.
Karen has never been or will ever be a racial slur. However, it is a word used to pinpoint dangerous behavior white women have enacted for years at the cost of Black folks. The widespread awareness of this phenomena serves as a threat to white supremacy, hence the controversy surrounding it. If there is one thing the world can depend on, it’s that a Karen is always going to Karen—now we just have a name for it.