51% of the population in the United States is comprised of women. 60% of those women are white. 55% of these white women voted for Trump. In other words, the majority of women in the United States are white women, and a majority of those women are white supremacists. And they have power.
A common buzzword amongst communities and individuals involved in attempting to analyze and address racial disparities is “bias.” It presumes a preference for one thing over another. The biased actors in these discussions are often protected by the linguistic blanket term “implicit.” This assumes that the biased individual is completely unaware or unconscious of their prejudice. And yes, I’m sure they do exist. There are millions of well-meaning white women that are too privileged and detached to even be aware that they are bigots, that’s why Peggy MacIntosh’s “The Invisible Knapsack” is required reading in practically every college critical theory class, but the majority of White women are active card-carrying white supremacists.
We can’t talk about bias if we don’t talk about racism. And we can’t talk about racism if we don’t talk about Karen.
We can’t talk about the traumas inflicted upon people of color in healthcare, education, and mental health, for example, without talking about the fact that they don’t just occur by accident. They are inflicted on purpose. And most of the time, they are inflicted on purpose by Karen.
Karen, systemically speaking, controls and administrates all of these industries.
We can’t talk about how children of color are not “achieving” in the education system without talking about the fact that 68% of Educational Administrators are women and 79% of them are white. Karen is why our kids can’t read. We can’t talk about “gaps” in healthcare without talking about the fact that 75% of healthcare practitioners are women and 75% of those women are White. Karen is why we are getting treated like criminals when we seek medical care. We can’t talk about the complete lack of culturally relevant, trauma informed mental health care and overreliance on institutionalization and incarceration of people with mental health concerns without talking about the fact that 80% of Psychologists are women and 90% of those women are white. Karen is why we are criminalized instead of supported. And we can’t talk about how social service organizations and employees are more likely to connect people with the police than they are with direct care support without talking about the face that 82% of social workers are women and 70% of those women are white. Karen is why we fear the people that are supposedly there to help us.
So let’s talk about white women. Let’s push past the Karen meme for a moment and look at where these agents of white supremacy truly have a chokehold on the lives and livelihoods of people that aren’t white. Let’s look at the industries where Karen is Queen and what happens to people of color within those industries.
Is your boss racist? Can’t do anything about it? 77% of white Republicans, including the overwhelming majority of Karens, believe that the core problem with racism is that people see racism where none exists. And those people are likely who you will have to convince that you were the victim of racism in the workplace since 74% of people that work in HR are women and 76% are White women. Do you need access to a government program? Having trouble? Well, good luck with that. 80% of the gatekeepers are women and 70% are Karen. Want a loan? Can’t get a loan? Yeah, we have a Karen for that, too. Again, not surprised. 77% of loan interviewers are women and 75% look a lot like that lady that called the police on that Black person for breathing in public. Which time, you ask? Exactly.
And so Karen might be an annoying cousin to your white liberal friend, or a meme to your white liberal co-worker, she is an active and structurally supported agent of intentional racism to the Black, Brown, and Indigenous person that has ever encountered them. And there are no industries where this is more clear than education and health care.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “The status dropout rate varied by race/ethnicity in 2018. The status dropout rate for Asian 16- to 24-year-olds (1.9 percent) was lower than the rates for their peers who were White (4.2 percent), of Two or more races (5.2 percent), Black (6.4 percent), Hispanic (8.0 percent), Pacific Islander (8.1 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (9.5 percent). In addition, the status dropout rate for those who were White was lower than that of every other racial/ethnic group except those who were Asian.”
The term drop out here is misleading. It suggests that students just fall out of the system, or they themselves let go. More accurately, students of color are being pushed out of the system and the person doing the pushing is Karen.
Women occupy 74% of the field of Education, and 82% of those women are White. Women make up 68% of Educational Administrators, and 79% of them are White women. And in preschool, which is a key factor for academic success, 98% of the field is occupied by women, and 76% are White.
The media and your racist uncle can point fingers all day at parents that aren’t white and blame them for not having had the privilege of going to graduate school to be trained to teach children at varying ages while struggling through the labor force in other sectors, or outside of them — but the fact is it’s Auntie Karen that keeps kids from graduating. Point that finger her way. And while you’re at it, let me suggest another finger to point at her while you discuss healthcare.
Spectrum News in San Antonio recently reported, “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black and American Indian women are two to three times more likely to die during childbirth. The study says most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable and those disparities have persisted over time….The Texas Department of State Health Services say, 8 in 10 Black maternal deaths could have been prevented based on circumstances surrounding healthcare.”
According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy, “At the national level, African American men, for instance, are more likely to die from cancer than Caucasian men. While Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women, the latter are more likely to die from this particular form of cancer than Caucasian women. While Caucasian men are more likely to develop colorectal cancer than African-American men, the latter are more likely to die from this cancer than the former.”
Karen likes to kill Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. She just does. Is she biased? Yeah, probably. Is she racist? Yep. She sure is. And is her racism a threat to the very lives of the people she comes in contact with? Karen is a cop dressed like a doctor. She’s not ignorance laden and bumbling with bias. She’s not a bad apple. She’s a murder that doesn’t need a gun. 75% of healthcare practitioners and technicians are women, and 75% of them are White. 89% of nurses are women, and 76% of them are non-melanated. And 93% of medical assistants are women, and 75% of those are also White.
When Black, Brown and Indigenous people are the most vulnerable, they are expected to turn to well recognized agents of racism. It is no wonder that many refuse to seek medical care when they need it. These aren’t healthcare gaps, they are Karen fences. And they extend into mental health, as well.
The American Psychiatry Association reports, “Only one-in-three African Americans who need mental health care receives it.” Further:
“Compared with whites, African Americans are:
– Less likely to receive guideline-consistent care
– Less frequently included in research
– More likely to use emergency rooms or primary care (rather than mental health specialists…
…Compared with the general population, African Americans are less likely to be offered either evidence-based medication therapy or psychotherapy.13
• Compared with whites with the same symptoms, African Americans are more frequently diagnosed with schizophrenia and less frequently diagnosed with mood disorders. Differences in how African Americans express symptoms of emotional distress may contribute to misdiagnosis.14
• Physician-patient communication differs for African Americans and whites. One study found that physicians were 23% more verbally dominant, and engaged in 33% less patient-centered communication with African American patients than with white patients.15
• Black people with mental health conditions, particularly schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and other psychoses are more likely to be incarcerated than people of other races.”
And once again we see Karen as the structural perpetrator of racism in healthcare. 80% of Psychologists are women and 90% are White. 76% of counselors are women and 73% are white. We can talk all day about unintended bias, but if we don’t address straight up racism, Karen will continue to serve not only as a lethal gatekeeper for the healthcare industries, but as the doorwoman for the prison pipeline.
Jails and prisons are filled with men and women Karen has pushed out of the education system and the health care system. This has been the case for generations. And there is still no consequence.
Discussions of gaps and disparities are intended to be held in ways that prevent the discussion of consequences. Racism is to be approached as an accident. Disparities in healthcare are supposed to be the result of a lack of representation or unintended bias as opposed to straight up racism and premeditated violence. Gaps in education are supposed to be the result of solely environmental restrictions and well intentioned but politically sleepy educators instead of unabashed white supremacists. Sure there are racists that fall into the invisible knapsack, but there are also Karens that use their power and privilege to intentionally harm people that aren’t white. There are more of them than the “accidental” racists would like to admit.
And so just as we confront racism in areas such as law enforcement, we must resist the notion that the trauma inflicted upon our communities is accidental. We must reject the notion that there are just a few bad apples. And we must confront the fact that racism won’t stop without barriers to stop it. Karen, all Karens, must be held accountable for what they are doing to our communities. Policies and infrastructures for justice must be put in place at local, state, and national levels to punish the Karens and remove them from the system. As long as they are allowed to hide behind the language of gaps and disparities, the will continue to serve as the agents of white supremacy that they are. Not mistakenly. As intended.