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Karens in the Coal Mine

May 23 2024 – Justin Mickens

Karens in the Coal Mine
Karens in the Coal Mine

Dr. Rashad Richey is celebrating his anniversary with TYT. For three years, he and his team have produced Indisputable; a daily news show that tackles social justice issues.  We are proud of our partnership with this bold and principled voice for truth. Indisputable, is the fastest-growing news show in America. Using community-sourced reporting, his show has created a real impact on the lives of everyday people. 

Indisputable also includes a segment that has become an audience favorite: “I Wish a Karen Would,” This segment shines a spotlight on the public temper tantrums of “Karens” in the wild. In this instance, a “Karen” doesn’t refer to a specific person as much as it is internet slang used to identify a type of person. A Karen is often found wanting to “speak to the manager.” They are the kind of people who regularly belittle workers in the service industry and frequently perpetuate racist micro-aggressions. But above all things, a Karen is a person who weaponizes their relative privilege and power against others. 

At times, it can be cathartic to watch these Karens go viral and suffer the consequences of their actions. However, the existence and persistence of Karen incidents point to a greater underlying issue within our society. Let’s pause here for a moment and take a step back to the 1800s. 

After a series of catastrophic mining accidents, Scottish physiologist John Scott Haldane introduced the idea of bringing canaries to mines. Canaries are unique in that they require twice as much air to function compared to other birds their size. So if the miners find themselves in a mine with low oxygen or are contaminated with deadly carbon monoxide gas, the canary would know long before the humans would. This is the origin of the saying, “a canary in a coal mine.” It is a saying that signifies a warning of danger within the environment. 

So, what do adults having public meltdowns have to do with birds in coal mines? Simple, Karens are our modern-day canaries. Their theatrics and outbursts warn us of greater issues bubbling beneath the surface of society. America has come a long way, but this is still a nation that incarcerates Black people at disproportionately higher rates, has worse healthcare outcomes for minorities, and maintains significant wage gaps between workers along the lines of race and gender.

The next time you see a Karen barking at a stranger in the street, remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Bigotry, racism, and discrimination are still alive and well in America. It is up to us to confront these issues. Our work to create a just and equitable world is still ongoing, and Dr. Rashad Richey and the team at Indisputable are doing their part. 

This month, ShopTYT is highlighting all things Indisputable in our collection. We especially want to highlight our Karen-themed t-shirts and hoodies. Your purchase supports our efforts to hold Karens accountable and power TYT’s mission to drive positive change in the world. So suit up with your favorite activist wear here first, then head out, and let’s keep those Karens in check.


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