Karen. Chad. Becky. If you follow social media, you should have no issue recognizing these archetypes of white folks who wreak havoc in public and cause problems for everyone around them. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I compiled a playlist of videos that provide a rich introduction to the very real but social phenomenon. Come stop by. I’d love to hear what you think.
Conrad’s (2007) “The Medicalization of Society” was a seminal text in my introductory Medical Anthropology course. In it, Conrad discussed the recent proliferation of behaviors and maladies that medical professionals name as illnesses or disorders. Physicians however do not wholly influence the naming of illnesses and disorders. Social movements, corporations, and institutions also play a role in the medicalization of certain behaviors and maladies. This is important, because although the medicalization of problems have proven both beneficial and problematic, it doesn’t take years of medical training for society to influence what are considered illnesses or disorders. On social media and commentary communities, white people get ridiculed for behaviors that are petty, overly disruptive, and sometimes dangerous. The kinds of behaviors I’m going to name here are just a few that will make people stop and think about what will happen if we medicalize white behaviors.
Obviously, I acknowledge that the medicalization of certain behaviors and predispositions can be stigmatizing. Although the ridiculing of white behaviors can lead to widespread prejudice, this alone never precludes the analysis of the systems, institutions, and unearned advantages that lead to these behaviors. So, without further ado, these are five things white people do that can be considered ‘diseases.’
Being entitled to everything.
You may have heard about the woman who refused to wear a mask inside a Starbucks and inadvertently caused a barista to garner positive publicity for refusing to serve the woman. She now wants $50k of the money strangers raised on the barista’s behalf. I just want to say right away that there are other ways the woman could have handled the situation. She could have worn a loose cloth over her face and nose—or just order delivery. This is just one example of the kinds of entitlement that is frowned upon by folks who are reasonably trying to get by economically during the pandemic.
There is nothing good on social media. That is, until Ava Louise came around. She’s the person who licked a toilet seat on the airplane just to catch coronavirus and gain some TikTok points. Need I say more?
Here’s an example of a pseudo-famous TikTok star who broke down just because someone else is surpassing her follower count. Caution, strong language here.
The Central Park Karen made headlines for calling the cops on a Black man who respectfully asked her to leash her dog. Although governments are cracking down on these behaviors, playing victim remains a petty but very dangerous behavior that could potentially kill a BIPOC.
Having thirst for power and money.
People are trying to get by economically. So why do rich white men ask for more money when they obviously have the means to get by? Here is commentary by Cr1TiKaL:
And if you thought that pastor was an exception rather than the rule, here is a story of a celebrity who obviously doesn’t have financial literacy:
Acting like everything’s alright when it really isn’t.
Not even the Grim Reaper can put the kibosh on a Florida beach vacation, I guess.
I hope that after reading and watching these clips, folks will seriously consider the impacts of calling these white behaviors “diseases.” This could be a game changer. Of course, no amount of ridicule and satire alone can affect systemic social change. Any analysis of these white behaviors must align with the goals of shifting power towards BIPOC, and creating a just society centered on relationships and social responsibility. That’s it. Take it easy everyone.