Things That Matter

A New targets Karens law And Could Finally Make Their Behavior A Crime

The ‘Karen’ meme has exploded across the Internet, as entitled white people have terrorized Black and Brown people across the country. It’s a meme that makes light of their ridiculous behavior, but it’s also shining a light on the larger issue of racism and racial inequality in the United States: Karens Law

Although many of the videos rack up millions of views, it’s important to remember that many of the actions these ‘Karens’ take against people of color are actually threatening the lives of these same people. One false phone call to the police accusing a Black man of harassment can lead to his death at the hands of racist policing.

Now, elected officials across the country are thinking of ways to hold Karen (and her male counterpart, ‘Ken’) accountable for putting Black and Brown lives in jeopardy.

San Francisco introduced the first ever CAREN Act – which would hold Karens responsible for their dangerous actions.

Following a spate of high-profile 911 calls against people of color, San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton on Tuesday introduced an ordinance that would make discriminatory calls for police illegal.

Walton dubbed the ordinance the CAREN Act (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies), in an apparent nod to the popularized slang name that refers to an entitled white woman complaining about people of color. The legislation would amend the San Francisco Police Code to make it unlawful for someone to “fabricate false racially biased emergency reports,” according to a news release from Walton.

“Racist 911 calls are unacceptable that’s why I’m introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting,” Walton tweeted. “This is the CAREN we need.”

Making a false police report is already illegal but Walton’s bill would also make it illegal to fabricate a report based on someone’s race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender or sexual orientation.

San Francisco is just the latest city to consider such legislation.

The San Francisco CAREN bill comes just after a similar bill was introduced in California’s State Assembly by Rob Bonta. His bill would classify discriminatory 911 calls as a hate crime in the state. 

Meanwhile, on the other coast, New York state lawmakers approved legislation last month that allows people “a private right of action” if they believe someone called a police officer on them because of their race, gender or nationality. The move by New York came after Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York City, gained national attention after a video went viral of her calling the police on a Black birdwatcher in Central Park.

In 2019, the City Commission in Grand Rapids, Michigan, held a public hearing on a “proposed human rights ordinance” criminalizing racially motivated calls to 911 with a fine of up to $500.

And in Los Angeles, the city council is exploring “criminal penalties, rights of victims to bring private civil actions and cost recovery by the City,” he tweeted.

These new bills and proposals come in the wake of countless incidents involving white people falsely accusing Black and Brown people of all sorts of activities.

karens law
Credit: @rmtennell / @melodyMcooper / @jaimetoons/ Twitter

Just a few weeks ago, a white hotel employee in North Carolina called the police on a guest, a Black woman and her children, who were using the hotel’s swimming pool. A white woman also pulled a gun on a Black woman and her daughter. Then there was the woman in an LA suburb who took hammers to her neighbor’s car and told them to “go back to Mexico.”

But few are as famous as Amy Cooper – or Central Park Karen – who called the cops on a Black birdwatcher, accusing him of harassing her.

Unfortunately, the Karen phenomenon isn’t an isolated occurrence – it’s an everyday one for millions of Black and Brown Americans.

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