Today we celebrate our nation’s birthday and usually on birthdays, it’s a time for contemplation and celebration. I am thankful for the miraculous experiment that is the United States of America. And as we look on 244 years of history as a country, I wonder about the danger of the new faceless oppressor that has led and controlled our language on some of the most pressing issues of our time; the one that encourages us to vilify and destroy one another in the the name of justice.
The machine has taught us to look at this video and see a hero and a villain.
It has taught us that, in situations like these, a gun is both the problem and the solution.
It has taught us that making a definitive assumption about someone is both racism and justice.
The miracle of America, is that our heterogeneity, in all it’s ugly glory, made us who we are and has not killed us….yet. But the machine’s power is using strength and turning it into weakness. A place where once, opposites could co-exist, now a place where you can either stand as black or white or a muddled gray. What makes America great is how well we’ve evolved towards ‘e pluribus unum’ without collapsing on ourselves. But the machine learned that money mattered most and that perhaps our motto was the only thing standing in it’s way.
What did you notice about the reporting in that video? How many people confronted the man? Two. How many people are being spoken about? One. Why?
There was Permit Patty, BBQ Becky, Cornerstone Caroline and then came the catch-all term to end all catch-all terms: ‘Karen.’ White, usually middle aged and certain that white-ness confers an authority that can be wielded freely on any unsuspecting black person (or POC). And ‘Karen,’ of course, is a woman. There’s Chad and Kyle or Earl, remember him? Come to think of it, we never heard from Earl again, which likely means he received a settlement to not sue his employer for wrongful termination and as a condition of the agreement, cannot speak on the incident. A favorable outcome not offered to the favorite villain of social media: the privileged white woman.
Twitter makes quick work: names and places of work were called out. A short while later, here come the apologies. Did you notice anything about their statements? Who actually called the police? Mr. Larkins, the other man in the viral video. Shouldn’t all the fiery accusations then be squarely on his shoulders? It’s not. Why not? Maybe it’s her appearance (a hideous picture, worthy of meme-ification) or her irritatingly sweet, condescending tone or maybe there’s something to be said for our culture’s comfort in destroying women in a way that we don’t men.
Sure, there’s ‘Chad’ and ‘Kyle’, but they don’t make front page news because ‘they’ run the newspapers, TV stations and networks. White people calling the police on POC isn’t new, so why is it news? Look at the year when Permit Patty, BBQ Becky, Hotel Earl and Cornerstone Caroline stories happened: all in 2018, an election year. And now, in 2020, we have a new crop of Karens: Lisa Alexander, Alison Roman and Amy Cooper (who’s behavior was more vitriolic, IMO). More destruction of women (disguised as social justice) and really, no men in sight. Are we to believe that white women are disproportionately more likely to call the police? Sure.
We think our outrage informs what gets covered, it doesn’t. It only gives us clues as to who’s actually controlling the narrative.