The Karen at work renting space in your head for free

Dear “Karen,” 

My Karen Translator is a service for BIPOC dealing with everyday racism from colleagues, friends, family, acquaintances and more. My Karen Translator aims to shift the burden of education and growth onto white people who have, consciously or unconsciously, acted out white supremacy in any number of ways.

We were recently informed that you have been harassing your Black coworker with relentless entitlement, superiority and racial microaggressions. We’re here to give you an opportunity to reflect on this behavior with the shared goal of fighting white supremacy everywhere it arises, including within oneself. 

We found your behavior to have the following “Karen-like” (white normative, white-centric, white supremacist) characteristics:

  • Demonstrating an exorbitant number of white supremacist culture norms in the workplace (see work by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun). Among them: 
    • Sense of urgency: creating false, unnecessarily fast deadlines for others, working at your own pace and expecting others to adhere without substantive reason.
    • Only one right way & either/or thinking: searching for opportunities to tell a colleague that their work is inadequate; unnecessarily comparing one colleague to another, thinking your way must be the only way 
    • Defensiveness: refusal to accept responsibility for your mistakes, abusing and protecting your power by blaming others for your failures
    • Paternalism: assuming you know what is best and directing others (who do not actually report to you) to act accordingly; refusing to understand how things can get done from any other point of view 
    • Power-hoarding: making the false assumption that your “longevity” in the company gives you power over someone and treating them accordingly (despite the fact that new and diverse ways of thinking are proven to generate more profit for companies) 
  • Singling out and targeting all this behavior at one Black woman who is already carrying the burdens of systemic racism, colonialism, the heteropatriarchy, a global pandemic and economic depression 
  • Aggressively prioritizing your own comfort; using tones, language and topics that alienate others without remorse; assuming others will share, or submit to, your opinion even when it is absurdly hypocritical and ethnocentric (such as a white person on stolen land complaining about immigrants)
  • An inability to develop professional relationships with Black women. Seeing faux-friendships as a path to absolve your racist ideologies, paternalism and entitled dominance
  • Inflicting psychological warfare, trapping others to participate in a script that upholds your norms, comforts and needs

Whether you are able to recognize or acknowledge any of the above, it has brutally impacted your colleague. She is considering leaving this job, despite the failing economy and pandemic which have disproportionately stolen lives and money from Black communities. Despite dealing with microaggressions her entire career. And despite the fact that while state-sanctioned violence against Black people continues unabated, the marketing-driven “diversity, equity and inclusion” interests of corporations will not, making work harder to come by for Black women facing discrimination. You are willfully upholding an oppressive work environment within an oppressive society within a world where anti-Blackness is everywhere and doing so with zero awareness as to how this impacts the livelihoods of coworkers of color around you. It is unacceptable that Black and brown people are forced to put their mental and emotional health on the line for their financial well-being. This is not okay.

And to our contributor’s supervisor: You are ill-equipped to serve in your role as a manager and supervisor. You KNOW the challenges this Black woman is facing and still lack the professional skills and moral fortitude to do your job. But you’ve decided to hide behind your weaknesses and fear of conflict and protect Karen, regardless of her impact on your work culture and the mental health and productivity of your team. The weathering and racial battle fatigue experienced by Black and brown professionals across the country is common, BUT IT IS NOT NORMAL. Do your job. 

We hope this experience inspires you to act more boldly against racism anywhere it arises and join the life-long fight for racial equity and Black liberation.


My Karen Translator


If you have questions or complaints, please email