As I anticipated, Manning played the hell out of her role, but for someone like me, who is well experienced in dealing with micro-aggressions to overt violent white supremacy, that was to be expected. The part of the movie that really actually triggered me the most was how the African couple, and every African portrayed in the movie reacted to not only Karen, but this entire white supremacist system.
I understand fully that Hollywood is nothing beyond the media propaganda arm of the capitalist system. These movies, television shows, etc., are corporate sponsored which automatically means their objective is always to promote the system that butters their bread. This is of course why you will never see any movies or television shows that show victory for socialist revolution, Africans seriously and uncompromisingly fighting back against white supremacy, etc. This is also the reason why any and all movies like “Karen” that make attempts to portray real life issues, up to and including actual stories of real freedom fighters (Fred Hampton, Patrice Lumumba, Che Guevara, Malcolm X, etc.), always follow one very subtle, yet very important trend. They all make every effort to downplay and destroy any militancy on the part of the oppressed communities against the dominant system and the people who carry out its interests.
That African couple and their friends are portrayed in this movie in ways that should be extremely offensive to any conscious African, but with bourgeoisie idealism dominant, many people will completely miss and/or misunderstand the critique I’m making here. The Africans in this movie weather repeated and consistent disrespect from Karen, including overt racist remarks made to their faces. They consistently (in ways that made me sick to my stomach) responded to this garbage with smiles and silence. Then, to add insult to injury, instead of the Africans developing a strategy to confront the racism, they begin to blame each other for what they are experiencing.
As the movie progressed, I realized I was being triggered over and over again and I realized why. The movie reflected much of what we see in the countless number of videos that circulate daily of Karens, Kens, capitalism, insulting and targeting African and other colonized people. There are some exceptions where we respond to this disrespect by pummeling the perpetrators, and believe me, I enjoy those immensely, but the overwhelming majority of these videos portray us (colonized people) being consistently and uncompromisingly insulted. We are called racist names. Told to speak English. Told to go back to Africa, Asia, wherever. Completely dismissed as human beings, and while we are being berated, our responses are to attempt to appeal to the humanity in these individuals when after 500+ years it should be quite clear to all of us by now that they have none.
I was triggered because the movie channeled that passive, anti-militant behavior that the capitalist system pounds down our throats 24/7/365 as the only pathway available to us in order for us to exist. I’m triggered by this because that pathway doesn’t do a damn thing to sustain our dignity. In fact, I would argue that approach does everything to compromise our humanity. In “Black Skin, White Mask” Franz Fanon correctly argues that our psychology of oppression is fueled in part by our lack of humanity and agency in being able to stand up to our oppressors in the ways they oppress us. He talked about the liberation our ancestors felt in killing the slave masters. This is something most of us have been programmed to reject immediately, but its something we need to learn to talk about much more than we do today. I speak from extensive experience in saying there is no better way on an individual level to process white supremacy, patriarchy, and all forms of oppression in a healthy way than giving back the disrespect to the people dishing it out in droves. I understand that capitalism has socialized us to act in its interests, not our own. Consequently, many people, when I say what I said in that last sentence, have been remote control programmed to respond that “two wrongs don’t make a right” but that logic never stands up to the more rational logic that bullying never stops by simply pleading for humanity either. I learned a long time ago that the best way to stop bullying in a community where bullying was the daily policy was to convince bullies that messing with me was a bad health decision for them. As a result, they learned quickly to leave me alone. Karens, Kens, capitalism (including police, and other state institutions), have also had to learn this lesson. In truth, because I have institutionalized this approach of personal dignity and the demand for respect, this is the reason that I can go out wearing overt political statements most us wouldn’t wear if something paid us too, that clearly challenge everything this backward country stands for and no one will say a word to me. Meanwhile, other people go out and do everything in their power to demonstrate they are no threat and the disrespect rains down on them at unprecedented levels. Why? People tell me all the time that the energy surrounding me is one of “don’t mess with him.” Well, if that’s true, why can’t more of us have this same energy? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?
And, saying you don’t know how to be like me in this regard i.e. knowing how to defend yourself on a social, intellectual, or physical level is no excuse. There are people everywhere, including myself, who are offering unlimited time training people for free how to utilize the skills that I’m speaking of here. Most people aren’t interested and/or paying attention because they would prefer to roll the dice and hope they can achieve some financial compromise with capitalism that rewards them before racism confronts their lives in these types of ways. Besides a handful of petti bourgeoisie celebrities and individuals, the overwhelming majority of us never find that cash windfall, but plenty of us come face to face with that racism and we have absolutely no idea how to deal with it beyond calling the police, which is so mindboggling that even the producers of that movie were at least able to demonstrate that calling the police is not even a bad choice to make for us. It’s a life threatening choice.
I was triggered by the movie because I know we can do so much more to protect ourselves. I was triggered because it hurts me how so many of us have absolutely no safety plan besides calling the slave patrols known as police when something happens. Imagine that. The Karens are famous because they call the police on us for no reason. And, they call them because they know the police will default to white supremacy, no matter what nationality the police are (white supremacy is a system and everyone in it operates according to its laws). Most of us know this already, yet we still believe we will get some level of justice by calling the police?
I’m still eternally optimistic that people will wake up and realize, as I articulated in my book – “A Guide for Organizing Defense against White Supremacist, Patriarchal, and Fascist Violence”, we can prepare ourselves to stop this dehumanizing treatment. And, we have everything we need to do that on our own without the institutions of this society that are there, not to support us, but to keep us repressed. Yes, the movie triggered me, but not for the reasons you think. Not because I was traumatized by seeing us disrespected. I crossed that bridge years ago. I’m triggered because I have some extremely good ideas and practices for how to stop this from happening to us, yet most everyone has little to no interest in finding out more, even for free. That’s traumatizing as hell to me. I mean what am I supposed to do when I see our folks confronted by these racists, we call the police, and the situation becomes worse? At a certain point, this becomes our fault if we refuse to do anything about it. A mentor told me once that the more conscious you get about our suffering, the more trauma you will experience because you will struggle to understand why we don’t do something to stop it. Until we can get more of us to wake up and realize we have no other option besides getting organized, the triggering and trauma will only get worse for many of us because being able to take care of myself and my family is and never will be my objective. Doing that is the bare minimum and its nothing you should feel qualifies you to brag about anything because in truth, as long as we are not safe collectively, your and my individual safety will forever be compromised. I’ve helped my offspring get organized to address these situations. I’ve even helped my ex-wife and that’s why I can say that’s nothing to brag about. That’s the equivalent of the base level of operation, nothing more.
I’m triggered not for me. I know how to deal with Karens and Kens and they know that too and that’s why they never bother me with that nonsense. I’m triggered because our babies are not safe and they aren’t not just because of those white supremacist terrorists (they represent everything this country was built on), but because so many of us prefer to live in a fantasy world provided to us by Disney and the rest of capitalism to the point where when danger happens, we have no idea how to adequately address it. If you are one of those people, do us all a favor, and remember that when your time comes. Don’t be crying and wanting to know why. You already know why. You just didn’t have the courage to do anything about it. When your time comes, you should do as Kwame Ture once said. He stated “if you are not willing to do anything to help your people, if you are not willing to live for your people, then at least be willing to die for your people. Get yourself a phone directory. Call the local KKK office. Tell them that you refuse to do anything for your people so when they prepare to lynch their next victim, give them your address because if you are not willing to live for your people, you should at least be willing to die for them!” Sound harsh? It is, but so is this system and anyone paying attention should already know that. Even Hollywood motion pictures aimed at popular culture are telling us about the reality we live in.