By AFRO Staff
Terrell Owens just made a personal discovery: The “Karen” phenomenon is real.
In urban slang, a “Karen” is usually an obnoxious, entitled and often racist White woman who uses her privilege to get her way or police other people’s behavior. Historically, and in more recent times, it also refers to White women who sic law enforcement on Black people doing everyday things, claiming some imagined threat.
In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy, was lynched when a White woman claimed he whistled at her. In 2020, a White woman called the police on a Black bird-watcher in New York’s Central Park when he asked her to leash her dog. Similar incidents have gone viral, with many viewing them as reflections of the daily racism and life-threatening situations faced by people of color.
In an Aug. 3 social media post captioned “KAREN IS REAL!!!!” Owen chronicled a dispute with a White neighbor, who called the police on the Black former NFL player and screamed at him: “You’re a Black man approaching a White woman!”
Owens said he was driving to the mailbox in his Deerfield, Fla., community when the neighbor, a White woman riding a bicycle, accused him of speeding and “almost hitting” her. He parked his car and got out to discuss the matter, but she immediately called the police.
Owens began live recording the incident on his Instagram account shortly after the police arrived.
In the video, the woman could be heard repeating her allegations to the officers, also saying that the former Dallas Cowboys star got out of his car to intimidate her.
T.O. denied all her claims, saying he exited his vehicle because she was screaming profanities at him.
“You don’t yell at me and tell me I almost hit you and I didn’t,” Owens can be heard telling the woman in the footage.
“But, you didn’t have to get out of your f***ing car!” she replied.
Owens countered, “You didn’t have to talk to me that way, either! Karen!”
That’s when the woman yelled back, “You’re a Black man approaching a White woman!”
Said White woman then broke down in tears—as many White women in these scenarios often do.
] crying; here’s Karen…. Before
]showed up it was f**k you this, f**k you that. The police show up
] the tears start flowing,” Owens said in response.
He added, “This is unbelievable…. I’ve seen it on TV, I’ve seen it on video… but this is firsthand.”
In “just another day of being a Black person in America,” a Black man was standing outside his home just south of Seattle in White Center when a White woman called the police on him.
In a recording of the incident, the woman, who is not identified, is seen talking on the phone with police dispatch after confronting Dayson Barnes, who is Black, The Seattle Times reported.
“If you guys have a lease, I’d just like to see the lease,” the woman told Barnes and his partner in the video. The video was posted on Reddit on Aug. 3 by Barnes’ partner and has been circulating on social media.
About 11:30 a.m. that day, Barnes said a woman he recognized from down the street drove by his house as he was standing in the backyard. Barnes and his partner had moved into the home about three weeks ago, and said other neighbors noticed their U-Haul truck.
Barnes said he and the woman waved to each other, “as a normal neighbor would,” but she came back and parked in front of the house.
Barnes said that when he approached her to ask if she needed something, the woman said she knew who lived in the home and accused him of not being a resident there. The woman told him he shouldn’t be at the property, and called 911, he said.
Barnes then went into the house to retrieve his phone to film the interaction, and to tell his partner about the dispute, he said. Barnes said the woman’s demeanor changed when she saw his partner, who is White.
“I’m a Black man, and me being out there alone and for me to go inside to get my White boyfriend, she felt she was in the wrong I guess and that there was a misunderstanding,” Barnes said Aug. 5. “I did get the sense of her trying to save face for herself and brush it under the rug.”
Shortly after, King County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived to respond “to reports of a potential residential burglary,” spokesperson Zoe Birkbeck told the newspaper.
“Dispatch advised responding deputies that the caller said that it was a misunderstanding however now a verbal disturbance had ensued,” Birkbeck said.
In the video, Barnes’ partner can be heard accusing the woman of calling the cops because “she saw a Black man walk in the house.” The woman can be heard responding, “Oh my gosh this has nothing to do with race.”
Barnes, however, said “It was obviously a race thing.”
“I was wearing a hoodie because it’s cold that morning, a black hoodie, and she thought I shouldn’t be there, I was stealing from the house,” he said.
Arriving deputies checked Barnes’ identification and left after about five minutes. No official report was taken, according to Birkbeck.
Barnes and his partner moved to Seattle from Texas, where he said he was frequently racially profiled. White people called the cops on him a number of times when he was walking or running through certain neighborhoods, he said, an experience that always made him fearful of possible police interactions.
“I didn’t think I’d have to experience this outside of the South,” Barnes said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.