Downtown Calgary was the backdrop for a recent racist tirade that received a whole lot of attention on TikTok and Twitter this past week (almost 300K and 30K views on each platform at the time of writing respectively).
Captioned ‘met a racist Karen in downtown Calgary, we were just minding our own language and then out of nowhere this bitch just started coming at us’ the video captures a middle-aged white woman with a questionable hairstyle (a Karen, if you will), berating a family for reasons unknown. And by reasons unknown, I am guessing deep-seated racism? Berating a family that included a child. A child who she made cry with her inane and hateful attack.
“I’ll give you $50 to call the cops right now.”
“You don’t belong in our country.”
These were just a few of the choice poisonous statements to come out of her (possibly intoxicated, definitely incoherent) mouth. It was a stark reminder that racism is still alive and well in our city.
Proof positive that racism is alive and well in Calgary
Disappointing? Absolutely. Surprising? Perhaps not so much when you consider the following Statistics Canada data:
- Between 2019 and 2020 there was an 80% increase in police reported hate crimes in Canada – 1,594 up from 884
- 84 of these hate crime incidents were reported in Alberta, representing a 39% increase,
- During that same period there was a 75% increase in hate crimes in Calgary alone
Time Magazine initially wrote about the ‘Karen phenomenon’ almost two years ago, describing Karen as “a slang term for a middle-aged white woman (which seems to have stemmed from the popular ‘can I speak to a manager?’ meme) who have become infamous online for their shameless displays of entitlement, privilege, and racism – and their tendency to call the police when they don’t get what they want.”
Here’s a random fact (er, maybe not so much for those who share the unfortunate moniker that has been bestowed on this particular breed of privilege). The name Karen has dropped significantly in popularity, from coming in at #661 in 2019, and dropping to #826 in 2020. Ya, that tracks.
And the public response to this latest Calgary Karen outburst? Overwhelming disgust.
“For all those who always get annoyed when we say racism exists in Canada, watch the video and stop pretending to be shocked as if you don’t have friends, family, neighbours or co-workers who have these attitudes! BIPOC have been experiencing racism in isolation all along”
“I’m ashamed to be from #yyc sometimes”
“I am embarrassed to be Canadian right now. There’s no excuse for this”
The Karen phenomenon
Back to the Times article. The article is well worth a read as it goes beyond the bad hair and pervasive entitlement of Karen memes and digs into the violent history of white womanhood. As Dr. Apryl Williams, a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society shares in the article, these Karen memes and videos “are actually doing logical and political work of helping us to get legal changes or legislative changes. While, of course, they aren’t a standalone movement on their own, they actively call out white supremacy and call for restitution. They really do that work of highlighting and sort of commenting on the racial inequality in a way that mainstream news doesn’t capture.”
Karens of the world – knock it off. Really, no one wants to hear it. Be better.
*A previous post misidentified the bridge in the background. The post has been corrected.