Hating Karen

A Twitter video clip that has been retweeted over 85,000 times shows a woman cowering, whimpering and shrieking in terror while a man taunts and berates her, apparently for cutting him off in traffic and flipping him the bird. And the man, who filmed the video and put it online, is meant to be the good guy.The maker of the video, Karlos Dillard — a self-described entertainer and public speaker who is black—claimed that the woman, whom he mockingly addressed as “Karen,” had also used a racial slur.

Dillard’s post was boosted by several black-focused websites, including Essence (“Seattle-Based Karen Breaks Into Theatrics Once The Man She Allegedly Calls The N-Word Starts Recording”) and The Grio (“Seattle Black man films hysterical ‘Karen’ who falsely claims she is being attacked”). But it stirred up some Twitter controversy even in quarters usually sympathetic to the anti-racism cause. People noticed odd details. One poster, a Black Lives Matter supporter, noted that Dillard seemed to be far more concerned about woman cutting him off and flipping him off than about the supposed racial slur.

There were more red flags, such as several other videos in which Dillard accused white or Asian women of racist verbal abuse but the alleged abuse always happened off-camera. And, most damning, a video in which Dillard and his husband Kris openly discussed “laying traps for racism” by provoking confrontations and falsely accusing people of saying or doing something racist, on the assumption that those who don’t protest their innocence are essentially pleading no contest to racism because, deep down, they know they’ve been caught. (Or something like that.)

It’s hard to tell exactly what happened between Dillard and his latest “Karen,” whose real name is apparently Leah. Did she cut him off in traffic? Maybe. Did she flip him off? She repeatedly denies it in the video, and there’s no evidence to back it up. Did she, as he claims, follow him for several blocks? All the evidence suggests he followed her home. Did she use racist language? The only source for that claim is a statement by a man who is on record admitting that he uses false accusations of racism to “lay traps.” (As one blogger pointed out, it is also noteworthy that Dillard only mentioned the slur when rebuking people who tried to intervene on Leah’s behalf, not when confronting Leah herself.)

So, ultimately, there are two plausible scenarios. One: the entire thing was a self-promoting setup. (It’s worth noting that as soon as the video went viral, Dillard tried to literally cash in on it by selling T-shirts.) Two: the woman was a bad and rude driver, but Dillard blew up a routine and non-racial traffic spat into a racial incident. Either way, this does not look good for him.

While Dillard still had his supporters, the tide quickly turned against him even on black and social justice Twitter — partly because of political eccentricities that made him suspect in those circles. It’s unclear what Dillard’s politics are today, but three years ago he was a self-identified “black gay conservative”; there is a 2017 podcast interview in which he talks about voting for Donald Trump and says that Philando Castile, the African-American gun owner fatally shot by the police in Minneapolis, died because of his own mistakes.

There was also the sheer vileness of Dillard’s behavior: his gleeful humiliation of Leah in the video, his bald-faced lie to her that he would not put the video online, his absolute lack of sympathy for her distress, and his rush to monetize his supposed victimhood.

Viral Racist Videos Gone Wild by Cathy Young

This is a great big pile of steaming demonic filth.

Cut it out.

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