What's In A 'Karen'? (Podcasts)


What's In A 'Karen'? (Podcasts)


23 mins. podcast (audio) from NPR CodeSwitch.

The evolution of a nickname for a certain type of white woman.

Here's an excerpt: "When I was growing up in the 1950s and '60s, Karen was a name that was everywhere — but in a different way than it is now. Thanks to the baby boom, it felt as if every fifth person was named Karen. I knew a whole bunch of them: Karen Trader, Karen Huff, Karen Ramos, Karen Davis, Karen Petersen, Karen Johnson, Karen Robinson. Back then, you could yell "Karen!" on the schoolyard playground and watch the heads pop up.

The Karens I knew were dependable. We collected the class milk money in elementary school (Google it, young'uns) and took teachers' notes to the principal's office. Later, we were the babysitters who showed up on time, no prompting needed. We were class officers and community volunteers. We were not the ones in risqué prom dresses. No one was ashamed to be a Karen. Karens, for the most part, behaved. And although the name is Nordic descended, there were plenty of Black Karens in my New England hometown.

Well, as the '60s folk song says, times, they are a-changin'. You can't log on to your computer or glance at your phone without an example of some "Karen" somewhere behaving badly: in the park. At the big-box store. Calling police on little children on the sidewalk. Harassing her neighbors — on their own property. For these women, Karen is not the name on their birth certificates but what they have become."

About Code Switch (podcast): What's CODE SWITCH? It's the fearless conversations about race that you've been waiting for! Hosted by journalists of color, our podcast tackles the subject of race head-on. We explore how it impacts every part of society — from politics and pop culture to history, sports and everything in between. This podcast makes ALL OF US part of the conversation — because we're all part of the story.




July 15, 2020


Podcast Directory  (for a list of episodes since the podcast started in 2016)




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Karen Grigsby Bates, “What's In A 'Karen'? (Podcasts),” Antiracism Digital Library, accessed February 27, 2024, https://sacred.omeka.net/items/show/379.