Karen tells America 

30 years in the future, one white woman honors her actions for social justice

6 minute read
2020 was a really hard year—we missed so many brunches! (Image via Wikimedia Commons.)
2020 was a really hard year—we missed so many brunches! (Image via Wikimedia Commons.)

Karen was born in 1988. In a country with a swelling socioeconomic divide, Karen thrived. She had ivory skin, strawberry-blonde hair, and a thirst for self-righteousness.

She helped end racism by voting for Obama (her first time at the polls!), she learned how to rap by listening to Hamilton, and after launching a successful beauty and lifestyle blog, she put a down payment on a new home, bought a Prius, and started an Instagram account for her corgi that peaked at 125,000 followers.

But today, the paid promotional content has long since stopped coming and the sales in her rebranded virtual-reality beauty empire have halted. With more free time on her hands while she gradually retires as an entrepreneur and life coach, Karen wonders whether, in 2051, despite her devotion to love, healing, justice, and God, she could be on the wrong side of history.

In search of peace

As a yuppie whippersnapper, she once called the police on some young men setting off fireworks at the opposite end of her South Philly block. It was the middle of August during a heatwave, and she wondered who had the audacity to be celebrating on a random Tuesday at 10pm. She peeped outside and could make out the dudes’ mahogany skin. This didn’t stop her from dialing 911 and letting the cops know about this violation of noise ordinances. She wanted justice and a quiet night’s sleep with her air conditioner cranked down to 60 degrees. Unfortunately, the police never came.

The next day, she left work early and treated herself to a trip to Lululemon. She deserved it: she’d gotten only six hours of sleep and she barely made it through her Wednesday morning meetings. “Rest is rebellion, bitches!” she noted in all caps on an Instagram post that night.

And then, 2020 happened.

It’s hard out here for a Karen

Every year on Coronavirus Remembrance Day, Grandma K talks plenty about her struggles back then. She laments the brunches with friends she had to postpone or eat outside. She had plans to travel to Paris and London but couldn’t go and didn’t get a proper refund on her flights. She tearfully remembers how her name became an insult, and how she seriously considered legally changing her name to “Isabelle” (she played a lot of Animal Crossing during quarantine).

She messaged all her Black friends during the protests that summer and sympathized with their pain, posting a blank, black square on Instagram with the hashtag #BlackOutTuesday. She changed her Facebook profile, too: from a rainbow flag filter (she kissed a woman once at a party, so she’s queer) to a circle with “Black Lives Matter” written around a masked selfie on the beach at Sea Isle City. She wasn’t racist or homophobic at all.

“I’m an ally!” she said once on TikTok. It’s also important to know that, in 2017, she dated a Black guy named Jamaal for several months. They met at the Women’s March. She had a funny sign about how Nate Dogg is the only one who can regulate me, and she was attracted to his vibe.

“He’s like North Philly-lite, you know?” she once said to her best friend Jackie, who also attended the march. “Not too hood, not too dark, and he’s articulate, too!” He was just right, like a bowl of porridge.

I love me some him

For the record, Karen was inspired by the Warren G song when she heard it playing one night at the Dolphin. It was old-school hip hop night and Karen loves old-school hip hop. She knows all the lyrics to In Da Club and the first “hardcore rap” album she bought was Get Rich or Die Tryin’. She bought it in high school from her Black friend Wallace, who burned a CD for her. That’s when she knew she was down with brown. Rumor has it (according to her little sister Micaela) Karen didn’t avoid the n-word when she rapped in the shower. (The n-word is dropped 10 times in In Da Club—I looked it up for you because I knew you’d be curious.) And she always pronounced 50 as “fiddy.”

Those Caucasities sparked an irreparable rift between her and Jamaal, and she broke up with him after she went over to his aunt’s house for Thanksgiving. She wasn’t prepared for the clapback when Auntie Mae heard Karen whisper about how “different” the mac and cheese was. And she took that personally.

While we’re on the subject, there is no evidence of that relationship in her social-media history. But there were plenty of posts with Matt, Chris, and Joey. She says she isn’t biased at all, though! She wrote a Facebook essay about not seeing color in the summer of 2016. While Karen deleted it the next day because of the “slander in the comments” (her words), Micaela screenshot it and thought about leaking it on the day Karen held her first anti-racism workshop at her job at the start-up. But then Micaela remembered what her tarot reader told her about being careful with her karma. So she burned sage (for some reason), drank a glass of rosé, ate some hummus, and binged the entire first season of Bridgerton (her second favorite show, right next to Queen’s Gambit and Sex in the City).

Karen’s redemption

Despite her challenges, Karen continues to thrive 30 years after the pandemic. She maintains her anti-racism and anti-homophobia, she says. She has led workshops, and voted blue without a doubt or a nonpartisan critical thought from that day to this. She has donated hundreds of dollars to charity, and once, for a whole month, shopped only at local minority-run businesses.

Yes, she has called the cops on a few Black and brown people, but that’s okay—none of them were hurt. Crimes against people of color have declined over the last few decades. Less than 1,000 were killed in 2050! Also, she’s really okay now with Jamaal and Micaela’s marriage, and their beautiful little chocolate-vanilla-swirl babies, growing up to be environmental activists a little too late. Karen is becoming a better person every day, even at her age.

Happy Stacey Abrams Day

Now, as President’s Day 2051 is formally redesignated Stacey Abrams Day, Karen, 63, is ecstatic. She claims that she was there in Atlanta (which she calls Hotlanta while telling the story to her grandchildren) when Georgia swung blue. She was there for President Biden’s inaugural address. She knew when she heard Amanda Gorman’s words that everything was going to be alright, just like in Karen’s favorite Bob Marley song.

“I played ‘Revolution’ by the Beatles that day, too,” she says. “I knew the world was finally going to change for the better.”

So even if Trump wins a fourth term in the 2052 election (after becoming the first Cyborg to be president since 2032), Karen will be doing just great. She did everything she could. And on this Stacey Abrams day, Karen realizes that she was actually on the white right side of history all along.

“’Cause every little thing gonna be alright,” she says every morning, smiling with the rising sun.

Image Description: Two plates of brunch on a white table-top. Both have toast, poached eggs, and a side salad. Two champagne glasses filled with mimosas are also on the table.

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