Stanford Tackles The Pejorative, "Karen"
Stanford's Harmful Language Initiative discourages the use of the term "Karen" because it is "Imprecise Language" but fails to acknowledge that it also is sexist and racist.
What happened when Stanford IT leaders took 18 months to “collaborate with stakeholder groups” as part of “The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative”?
The effort yielded a document that is widely ridiculed around the word.
Most notoriously, the guide discourages people from calling themselves “American” because it might slight people who live in Central and South America. Instead, we are told to say “U.S. Citizen.”
It is illustrative how the Stanford group tackled the controversial term “Karen,” which is racist, sexist and yet, somehow, remains politically correct.
First, it is significant the Stanford group even chose to define “Karen.” The group did not feel the need to tell readers to avoid “n——-,” a slur for blacks, or “s——,” a slur for Hispanics. That’s because we all know this is unacceptable. Clearly people at Stanford do not know that it is unacceptable to use a pejorative term like “Karen” to refer to white women.
Secondly, the term is grouped under a category called “Imprecise Language,” which refers to terms that use euphemisms, vagueness or inaccurate words “to not say what one is trying to say.” Karen does not appear in the categories labelled “gender-based” or “Person-First” (use of person-first language helps everyone to resist defining others by a single characteristic or experience).
Third, the Stanford guide is far less sensitive regarding the use of the term “Karen” than it is with respect to other racial slurs.
For example, the guide discourages the generic use of the term “people of color” and, instead, encourages using the term BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and People of Color). The term “African-American” is discouraged because black people in the U.S. “can interpret hyphenating their identity as ‘othering.’”
By contrast, the Stanford group says Karen is defined as a “demanding or entitled White woman ” and the term “is used to ridicule or demand a certain group of people based on their behaviors.”
A certain group of people? Like maybe white women?
The ‘Year of Karen’
The Guardian, a liberal British daily newspaper that circulates in the U.S. free on the internet, greatly helped perpetuate the Karen meme when it labelled 2020 the “Year of Karen.”
The Guardian’s story is based on a single episode in New York City’s Central Park in the early morning hours of May 2020. A 40-year-old white investment manager called the police after a black male bird watcher asked her to leash her dog and, when she refused, beckoned the dog with a dog treat.
Amy Cooper told the police: “There is an African American man - I am in Central Park - he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog.” She was subsequently charged with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to one year in jail. She was fired from her job as head of Franklin Templeton’s insurance investment department. An animal rescue group confiscated her dog (though it later gave the cocker spaniel back).
Not content to see Cooper’s life’s ruined, The New York Times falsely reported in October 2020 that Cooper had made a second call that fateful day in which she charged the bird watcher with assault. The NYT ran a correction after it came to light the second call was placed by a 9-1-1 operator who was calling Cooper back.
In its article declaring 2020 the ‘Year of Karen,’ the Guardian quotes Apryl Williams, a professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan, as stating the incident shows white women are “conscious actors” in upholding racism, not passive observers. Williams said the Karen meme referred to “white woman surveilling and patrolling Black people in public spaces and then calling the police on them for random, non-illegal infractions.”
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