It is no exaggeration to say that, over the past few years, one of the major topics in mainstream media has been the parlous behavior of white Americans harassing and abusing black people for no apparent reason. This is especially true when it comes to coverage of white women who somehow find themselves at cross-purposes with black males.
In 2018, a woman who came to be known as “BBQ Becky” had, we were informed, chased an innocent black group out of a park in Oakland, California, apparently outraged just to see African Americans cheerfully grilling in public. In May 2020, a New Yorker named Amy Cooper was walking her dog when she encountered black bird-watcher Christian Cooper, on whom she called the cops for what we were told was no apparent reason—and by doing so, potentially “put his life at risk.” She became known as the “Central Park Karen.”
A year later, a white woman in a Brooklyn dog park told an upper-middle-class black writer to “go back to the hood.” In 2023, “Citibike Karen,” a nurse at Bellevue Hospital, allegedly tried to steal a rental bicycle from a group of black teenagers—the clear implication being that she thought her white privilege entitled her to the two-wheeler if she wanted it.
These incidents set off significant real-world reverberations. A month after the Coopers encountered each other in Central Park, Andrew Cuomo, then the governor of New York, signed into law NY Senate Bill 8492, widely known as the Anti-Karen Act. The law “imposes a…penalty for calling the cops on a black person” or member of any other legally protected class, at least when no very direct proof exists that “a crime or offense, or imminent threat to person or property, is occurring.” Around the same time, a law literally titled the CAREN Act was proposed and passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. And so, in at least two of the nation’s most prominent and populous left-leaning states, simply calling the cops on suspicious-looking people is now a risky business—if they’re the wrong color.
It was nonsense. Over the course of the several years that followed 2020’s peak Covid-and–George-Floyd hysteria, virtually every “Karen” tale was reveal-ed to be something not far from a complete hoax.
Roughly in order: It turned out that BBQ Becky (real name Jennifer Schulte) had called the cops only because the black family was cooking out in a “dog run” area of a public park where fire was prohibited, and they had refused a polite request to move. She reacted a bit more sharply, perhaps, than most city dwellers would have, but she was in the right.
As for Central Park’s Amy Cooper, she herself noted on Bari Weiss’s Honestly podcast that she had become alarmed and had engaged police because the male bird-watcher she encountered began behaving irrationally and threateningly toward her pet—pulling dog treats out of his clothes, trying to lure Cooper’s beloved dog over to him, and telling Amy he was going to do “something” to her or the pooch that “she was not going to like.” Cooper’s fellow Big Apple dog fancier, Brooklyn’s Emma Sarley, actually contacted area media herself after the story about her also went viral. She declared that there had been no racial overtones whatsoever to what she had said and argued that, when she said “your hood,” she was referring simply to another well-known dog park.
The nonsense had a cost, not only in the passage of unnecessary and arguably unconstitutional laws but also in the ruination of the lives of the women tagged with these offenses. Amy Cooper became a famous urban villain and lost her livelihood. Then there was “Citibike Karen.” Sarah Comrie is a nurse. She was, at the time, heavily pregnant. And no, she did not in fact attempt to jack a cheap bicycle from five fighting-age black men. Comrie’s attorney was able to provide literal receipts that showed she had in fact been the one to rent the bicycle over which the argument with the teenage black kids erupted. Comrie was not only called “retarded” during the confrontation but had her distended stomach touched in a potentially threatening way. All in all, she had either been the victim of an attempted theft herself or was simply involved in an unfortunate good-faith misunderstanding.
In either case, the willingness of millions of urbanites and tens of millions of TV viewers to believe these patently false narratives says a great deal about the bizarre level of artificial sensitivity that whites are expected to tote into American discussions of racial affairs.
Not to mention the “napping while black” incident at Yale, when a Ph.D. candidate named Sarah Braasch awakened the somnolent student Lolade Siyonbola and called the campus cops on her. This became a major social incident in 2018, with Siyonbola interviewed on morning talk shows about the grave offense done to her by a racist. The problem: Sarah Braasch is an internationally known anti-racist. Braasch spent years overseas, working with French and Maghrebi human-rights organizations such as Ni Putes Ni Sumises (roughly: “Neither Whores nor Submissive Women”) that assist an almost entirely Arab and African black client pool. While Sianbola likely did think Braasch a bigot—Braasch had once called campus security on a male friend of Sianbola’s after being followed into an elevator and then her dorm floor by the unknown man—Braasch simply is not. Following an extensive investigation by Yale, all “charges” against Braasch “were formally withdrawn,” and at least nine “glowing” letters supporting her were filed by left-leaning Yale University professors. Braasch was not called a “Karen,” but she would have been had the slang term been in use at the time her troubles began.
The collapse of the Karen tales hardly stands alone. Simply put, virtually every major claim made during and around the recent “Racial Reckoning” turned out to be untrue. Jussie Smollett’s claims of racialized violence turned out to be a hoax hate crime when or just before the Reckoning began, and more recently, a 19-year-old named Carlee Russell was forced to confess she had “disappeared” herself after her supposed kidnapping became headline news. The kids from a Covington, Kentucky, Catholic school who attended a pro-life march in Washington never attacked a Native-American elder and never tried to take his sacred rain drum away. In fact, they turned out to have been the victims—taunted by adult men of various races during an ugly confrontation they handled well. In the end, one of the kids, Nick Sandmann, was awarded millions of dollars in a legal settlement with the Washington Post, which had defamed him.
Oh, and while on the subject of this continent’s original indigenous inhabitants, there were never any “mass graves” on the campuses of the old residential schools for First Nations people in America’s Hat, Canada. The abnormalities under the shifting surface of the earth’s soil there are most likely tree roots. Back in the U.S., notorious state-line-crosser Kyle Rittenhouse was properly found not guilty after being charged with murder in the middle of a riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during which he had clearly fired only in self-defense.
The same pattern of collapse goes for larger and broader claims of American racism run amok. The total number of unarmed black men shot annually by police—a figure commonly said for around a decade to be in the “thousands,” or “one every 28 hours,” or “(a) genocide”—was eventually revealed (by me and other authors) to be on the order of 15. The fact can now be verified by anyone interested simply by checking an excellent comprehensive database maintained by the Washington Post.
Similarly, interracial violent crime involving both blacks and whites—described during the peak “Karen” hysteria as though it were constant and almost totally white-on-black—in fact turns out to make up perhaps 3 percent of U.S. criminal activity and to be almost 90 percent black-on-white. These stats come from unimpeachable source documents, including the last pre-Covid Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports. It is close to being no exaggeration at all to say that nothing we taxpayers were told for several years (and not just in this arena of race, but that’s another article) was true.
So: How could this happen? What made objectively intelligent people go along with clear nonsense, of a “there’s a pregnant nurse out here robbing five black guys of a bike they rented” variety, for half a decade? From a social-science standpoint, many things probably contributed to this pattern. “Mass hysteria” or “mass formation psychosis” is a well-documented psychic deformation going back at least to the Dutch tulip-bulb mania of the 1600s. And given the currency that victimhood has come to hold in our narcissistic society, it makes sense that the Christian Coopers and Lolade Siyonbolas have a ready audience when they pretend they have been traumatized by unpleasant exchanges that are entirely ordinary.
But there is a third and more important factor here, which largely predicts the willingness of some to believe facially absurd claims of victimhood—or at least pretend to. There is currently a very intense demand for evidence of racism in America—by which I mean the real, old-school kind of stuff. The demand far outweighs any potential supply of it. The need is based, I believe, in an aching desire to find a socially acceptable explanation for certain obvious struggles in minority and in particular black communities, such as the astonishing 73 percent illegitimacy rate for native-born black Americans.
Below the surface of a great deal of high- and upper-middlebrow conversation stirs a lurking worry that, as Charles Murray and Glenn Loury recently discussed, if racism can’t or doesn’t explain such problems, perhaps something else can and should. For example, perhaps, the now-forbidden “hereditarians” are correct, and a far deeper problem exists. We thus often see a strange phenomenon indeed: media coverage that seems to be almost relieved any time something that might be an example of the real stuff actually turns up.
This is frankly stupid, and it helps no one. The black illegitimacy/out-of-wedlock birth rate was 11 percent in 1938, when bigotry was far worse and the genetic makeup of the African-American community very similar to what it is today. Scholars such as Walter Williams and the legendary Thomas Sowell have argued almost since that year that “culturalist” variables such as daily study time for children and region of residence for populations predict most group-level outcomes far better than genes—or racial mistreatment.
Whatever the case, it’s hard to see how a constant stream of insulting allegations against whites—invariably followed by narrative collapse—could do much to improve race relations or convince actual over-the-line bigots that their brief is in error. When it comes to actually fixing problems like fatherlessness—among black and now all Americans—the very first step would seem to be identifying exactly how the problem breaks down. Let’s start doing that and leave the Karens alone.
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