A Letter to Karen, With Love

To the exasperatingly entitled, the moronic manipulators, the unseasoned and unstable, or rather,

To “Karen”, 

 

February 1st commenced Black History Month. A month designated to especially celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans, recognize the adversities we’ve overcome as part of the Black experience, and carry conversations to become a stronger Black community. However, Black History Month is also a time to unapologetically address white people’s BS. 

So this is my letter to you, Karen. I write this with intentions to confront your bias, and identify the microaggressions you claim to be just innocent curiosity. Your whispered subtle racism is louder than the rolling sea in “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Take this letter as an invitation to check yourself. 

Microaggressions are indirect racially discriminatory comments, derived from historic stereotypes and misconceptions. 

When you tell me I’m pretty for a Black girl, I won’t accept your backhanded compliment; that implies that my blackness is not a reflection of your beauty standards. Your statement is a diluted reminder of when Black slaves’ physical features were compared to monkeys, dogs, and cattle as a form of oppression. I didn’t ask for you to accept the curves of my lips, nose, waist, or behind. Save it. 

When you marvel at how well spoken I am, you’re subliminally implying that my race is incapable of social cognizance and articulation, as slaveholders once believed. Might I add that some of the most notable orators are Black Americans: Maya Angelou, Frederick Douglas, Angela Davis, and you all know Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to name a few. The surprise you have towards my intellect doesn’t phase me, nor does your supposed assent add credibility to me or my race. Please. 

When you immediately directed me to the sales rack or clearance section, you probably didn’t know that the Black demographic is exponentially increasing its wealth. Rather, you took the preconception that Black people are desperate and dependent like the Uncle Tom caricature that was painted of the Black man in 1851. I’m more than capable of purchasing what I please, and you don’t have to follow me around the store for “security purposes” either. Thanks. 

Please also allow me to remind you that every stereotype you’ve imposed on me and my community is in fact reflected in your everyday behaviors. If I’m uneducated, lazy, angry, brutish, lewd, selfish, or submissive, you have set the ultimate example of being so. Your ignorance is exhibited in the way you so often question our intelligence, not knowing that Nigerian Americans are the most educated ethnic group in the United States, and Black women are the most educated demographic. You claim to measure our laziness and lack of motivation from our use of government assistance, yet your race makes up 49% of Section 8 residents. According to you, we’re animalistic when we request basic human rights and reform from our broken government, but did you not see what happened on January 6th? 

Yet, despite the scorn against my people that you project, you continuously attempt to drain the ink from the blueprint we have created. To absorb it, to appropriate our culture and duplicate our features, yet still only reflect as a faded photocopy of who we are. No matter the amount of lip fillers, age correcting botox, spray tan, or Brazilian Butt Lifts you get, it will never compare to the authenticity of my ethnicity. 

So before you part your lips or furrow your eyebrows in an attempt to dissect who I am, remember that my culture was never created to be a spectacle of your observation. It was never meant to appeal to your aesthetic, or to be compared to your whiteness. My culture was curated in its own originality, flourishing with the approval of my ancestors and the progress of today’s generation. We don’t owe you any explanations. We didn’t need your criticism before, we don’t need it now, and especially not during our Black History Month.

 

With love, 

Kobi A. Spence <3