“I cringe when I hear ‘Karen’ jokes. It just makes me uncomfortable.”
Hello, world. My name’s Stephen LaConte, I’m a writer here at BuzzFeed, and my favorite thing in the world (besides my dog) is giving people advice.
Today, we’ve got this woman named Karen, who wants to change her name to avoid any associations with the meme about racist, 911-calling, manager-requesting white ladies:
Alright, Karen. Here’s the deal: Your name is your name, and you can do whatever you please with it — keep it, change it, become The Artist Formerly Known As Karen if you want. Names are deeply personal parts of our identity, and if you don’t like yours, you are always within your rights to pick a new one. That’s your prerogative.
But — and this is a big but — before you sign on the dotted line here, I think you should take a closer look at the “uncomfortable” feelings you’re describing right now, and ask yourself whether there’s anything more productive you could do with that discomfort, rather than simply running away from it.
Conversations about race and privilege can indeed be uncomfortable. They’re often quite personal, and awkward, and hit close to home. But instead of shutting down those conversations, or deflecting from them by asserting that you’re “one of the good ones,” I think you need to lean into your discomfort, and see what you can actually learn from it. In other words, allow yourself to be pushed out of your comfort zone, and into, well, reality.
And here’s the reality: You live in a racist country. Frankly, you should feel uncomfortable right now. Black people in America face day-to-day realities far worse than discomfort — being murdered by police, mistreated by doctors, and incarcerated by a criminal justice system that was built to oppress them. So if the most terrible thing you’ve experienced in this unjust world are a few Karen jokes, that is your privilege in action. You write in your DM that you don’t want to “deal with this” anymore, but I have to be honest: You’re not dealing with much at all.
There’s a degree of irony in your message, because a core tenet of Karen-ism is being so used to things happening your way, on your terms, according to your rules, that even the slightest challenge to your status quo is viewed as a personal attack. Whether it’s a barbecue happening in a public park or a little girl selling water on the sidewalk, Karens tend to really lose their minds when confronted with things even slightly beyond their control. And here you are now, so rattled by some internet memes that you’re considering legally changing your name for eternity. I’m not saying you’re being a Karen, Karen, but if the nametag fits…
So, here’s my advice for you: Instead of getting rid of a name that’s associated with privilege, why not spend your time and energy working to dismantle the privilege itself? Read some books on antiracism, donate to Black Lives Matter and bail funds, vote for politicians who support antiracist policies, shop from Black-owned businesses, and check your privilege each and every day. Doing all of that will make you WAY less of a Karen than simply taking the name “Karen” off your driver’s license and passport. I promise.
And one final thought before you go: In your DM, you seem to treat your “Karen” moniker like some evil curse that you need to rid yourself of. Instead, perhaps you can choose to see your newly-memed name as a blessing: It’s a built-in, daily reminder to be better than all the Karens who came before you. Don’t run from it — use it to do better. I know you can.
That’s all the advice I’m giving today, folks, but if you’ve got any words of wisdom for our DMer, share them in the comments! I’ll be reading…
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