Police brutality and racial discrimination is a daily reality for any non-white citizensB trying to go about their daily lives in the US. Social media has catapulted the reality of being Black in America to take centre stage, exposing a plethora of all too entitled Americans racially profiling innocent passersby who they’ve deemed to be causing some kind of disturbance.. We know these perpetrators online as ‘Karens’.
Initially a harmless internet meme that poked fun at self-obsessed suburban American mothers who sport that haircut, always ask to speak to the manager, and have a serious issue with e-scooters, the term has now come to encompass anyone who seeks to obstruct or question people going about their business, more often than not because of unjust racial profiling.
Thanks to global movements like Black Lives Matter, legislature combating the problem has begun to finally surface and take shape, with San Francisco being a forerunner for progress, with its bill from 2020, the Caren Act.
The Caution Against Racial and Exploitative Non-Emergencies Act, abbreviated to Caren, is a play on the internet-appointed term for the bigots so often caught on film, who exploit their privilege by calling the police on innocent people trying to do simple things like barbeque, birdwatch, sell lemonade, or drive their car.
The bill aims to make the placing of racially-motivated 911 calls without legitimate merit or good reason a hate crime. POCs targeted by the calls made with racist intent now have the ability to sue those involved, provided the call can be proven to have been made on baseless grounds.
The act came at a time of great social upheaval in the US and has helped to grant power to those affected by these relentless attacks. However, the years that have followed have proven that the issue of Karens isn’t going away anytime soon, and the countless viral videos that have surfaced since the act was passed are making us wonder why this bill hasn’t been extended to the federal level.
If you need proof that the problem of Karens requires strong legislative backing, look no further than this video which was posted to Reddit on 15 May 2023. In the clip, we see a white woman painting herself out to be the victim, despite the fact that she’s trying to use someone else’s rented e-bike. Calls for help and tears become weaponised, and ultimately put the young Black men in a very dangerous situation.
This TikTok, posted only three days ago, shows a lady calling the police on a group of nannies who’re supervising children in a park. Her reasoning? Because “they aren’t from around here.” The incident took place in Maryland, but due to the lack of widespread implementation of the Caren Act, the woman in question will invariably be let off without even so much as a warning.
This next video from February shows an altercation between a Black woman in her car and, you guessed it, none other than a Karen calling the police. It’s unclear what the accuser’s problem actually is but from the video, she seems to be stuck on the phrase: “Cloth on your steering wheel!” Naturally, the woman filming tries to ignore the Karen freaking out beside her car, but this proves difficult when she sticks her fingers into her pocket, miming a gun.
It doesn’t take an expert to recognise how incredibly frustrating and infuriating this scenario is, particularly considering the amount of unarmed Black individuals who’ve been murdered by police because the authorities claimed they were holding a gun when they actually weren’t.
Sometimes it’s not Karen—it’s Ken. This video from May shows a grown man harassing a group of teenagers who are trying to film a music video inside of a mall. The caucasian Ken becomes immediately aggressive, using slurs and discriminatory language against the group. It’s become evident that Karens clearly aren’t alone in this hate-fuelled crusade.
How much more evidence do we as a society need to witness to accurately prove just how important pieces of legislation like the Caren Act are in helping attempt to protect marginalised communities in the US?
In what can only be described as the next step in Florida’s crusade to completely erase and demolish the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals, Governor Ron DeSantis has officially signed the ‘Protections of Medical Conscience’ bill.
On Thursday 11 May 2023, DeSantis, who has single-handedly helped to crush the legal and medical protections of queer US citizens, pushed forward a piece of legislation which enables medical professionals and for-profit insurers to deny patients care based on religious, moral or ethical reasons or beliefs.
2023 has already become one of the most insidious years in regards to the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, and this recent bill will only further endanger them. As reported by PinkNews, legitimate concerns have been raised by activists and other medical professionals across the US that Senate Bill 1580 could be used to deny care to queer people, if a healthcare provider holds bigoted views about the community.
According to DeSantis however, the passing of this bill will ensure “medical freedom of speech for physicians by allowing doctors to follow data, not political agendas.” The so-called politician went on to state: “Florida rejects penalising physicians who dissent from the official narrative.”
One Twitter user, who has been publically referring to the bill as the ‘Let Them Die Act’ stated that the legislation was already having a major impact. Alejandra Caraballo alleged that one trans person had died after EMTs refused to treat them after a car accident.
Not only is the bill itself incredibly pointed and seeped with homophobic undertones, it’s also incredibly vague. The idea of a ‘conscience-based objection’ is highly complex and, as so many conservative political footballs are these days, it can and most likely will be used specifically to refuse the medical treatment of trans individuals—a community that has faced ruthless discrimination in the South and across the entire country over the past decade.
The situation has escalated to such a point that human rights group Equality Florida has begun issuing travel advice to any LGBTQIA+ individuals planning on going to the Southern state.
Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director, stated that as an organisation which works to improve Florida’s reputation for LGBTQIA+ equality, that it was with “great sadness” that they had to issue the travel advisory.
Some of the other scathing bills recently passed in Florida include: the highly controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill which restricts educators from teaching students about sexual orientation and gender issues, with teachers opening themselves up to lawsuits should they fail to comply and the ‘Safety in Private Spaces’ act which would make it a misdemeanour trespassing offence for someone to use certain bathrooms that don’t align with their sex at birth. There have also been a number of anti-drag bills passed in the South.
While activism targeted towards revoking and fighting against this swathe of legislation remains strong, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to break away from DeSantis’ own “official narrative” which is, of course, that the LGBTQIA+ community must be eviscerated. What’s even more concerning is that it looks more likely every single day that the Florida Governor might be the winning Republican candidate for the 2024 Presidential elections…