Comedian Ziwe Fumudoh interviewed four Karens for her new show, Ziwe, and the results were a televisual masterpiece.
“I interviewed a bunch of Karens about asking to speak to the manager,” Ziwe, 29, said on Twitter, posting a four-minute clip that has been watched almost 200,000 times.
Ziwe skyrocketed to fame last summer with a viral series of Instagram Lives, in which she asked white people about racism – at a time when social media was full of black squares and anti-racism infographics. Her new Showtime TV series came out last week.
“Karen” is a “pejorative slang term for obnoxious, angry, entitled, and often racist middle aged white women”, the clip begins.
Of the four “real life” Karens Ziwe interviewed, one, wearing a pink jumper initially stands out and is labelled by Ziwe as “Karen for the Cause”.
However, she later goes on to explain that she empathises with the racism experienced by people of colour because she has travelled a lot and is half Jewish, half WASP and one-quarter Norwegian.
“Oh, so you’re mixed?” Ziwe replies, as the Karen details how she is also 1.5 per cent Pygmy.
Ziwe goes on to ask the Karens to recount the last time they asked to speak to the manager. One explains that she only does so when she has to queue to be seated at a table. Another shares that, actually, she and her husband undermine this “Karen” behaviour by flipping it on its head.
She explains how they ask a server to speak to their manager, watching their server “sweat”. Then, when the manager arrives, Karen tells the manager that the server is doing a good job.
Later on, the four agree that “Karens lives matter” and get transferable tattoos that say “Karen and proud”.
“Karen” has been used as shorthand since around 2014 to describe middle-class white women being casually racist. Middle-class white women, unsurprisingly, object to the term and say it is a “slur” that is “sexist, classist and ageist”.
The internet meme of “Karens asking to speak to the manager” made global headlines in May 2020 when white woman Amy Cooper called emergency services, falsely claiming that a Black man, Christian Cooper (no relation), had threatened her in Central Park.
Christian Cooper recorded the entire incident and shared the footage online. Amy Cooper quickly went viral and earned the nickname “Central Park Karen”, becoming a symbol for the racism Black people face in everyday life in the process.