Karen, co-opted

One of my friends brought to my attention a conversation around the term, “Karen,” in econ twitter.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Karen is the slang term for a privileged entitled white woman who uses her privilege and authority to harm a minority person.  Karens are often seen in videos calling the police on an innocent black person or family, and have the catch phrase, “let me talk to the manager.”

But one important aspect of Karening in its original slang definition is that they are using their privilege for evil.  They’re punching down.  They’re using unjustified anger at minorities simply being in their space to harass and hurt people.

Unfortunately, the term Karen has been co-opted by white men and the occasional metaphorical Karen to mean any strong white woman who is not afraid to speak her mind or, mind-bogglingly, any white woman who follows rules.  So a friend was called a Karen for very briefly blocking traffic in an alley to close a gate that needed to be closed.  White women politely asking other white people to put on their masks have been called Karens.  White women protesting racist and misogynistic men on twitter have been termed Karens by those same white men.

The term is no longer just shorthand for “privileged entitled jerk who uses authority to punch down” when white men and women use it.  It has become a tool of oppression used by more privileged people to keep women down.  Not because of people correctly using it in its originally intended purpose, but by others perverting the meaning to reinforce patriarchal structures of oppression.  Instead of being a term used by the rebellion to free, it’s being used by the evil empire to oppress.

So after some discussion in which my friend said she did not like the term Karen and I noted that I liked its original use (though we both feel sorry for non-Karens named Karen), we came to an agreement.

First, we decided that white men are not allowed to use the term Karen.  When white men use it, no matter how they use it, it is punching down.  Next we discussed white women’s use and decided that it’s either punching down or sideways and there’s not much lost by white women no longer using the term.  They can say entitled privileged jerk, or what have you.  So we agreed that if white people stop using the term “Karen” then its powerful short-hand use can be preserved by the people who truly understand the definition and who need it most.  (I reserve the right to use the term “Karen” when the woman in question is actually named Karen because puns.)

Language evolves, and if enough people use a sexist version of the term Karen, the term itself will do harm.  (And c’mon, white men are even worse– can’t we stop protecting them from their terrible actions too?)

Who do you think should use the word Karen?  What should white people say instead?

Ask the grumpies: Should economists not teach anything about race?

SLAC prof asks:

In a tweet, Trevon Logan says

The whole thread has more information.  It makes me want to give up.  He says economists do race all wrong.  What do you think?  And what does one need to do/know to be qualified to teach about race?

Ok, so first off:  I am not black.  Also I know and hugely respect Trevon Logan and his work (and I’m fairly sure we referee each other’s papers and I’ve always been impressed with his!)

But I disagree with him.  I think this is ok for two main reasons:

First, I have had a relatively large number of black (mostly female) students, many of whom have taken some of these cross-campus classes he discusses, and they have always asked me for more on race, not less.  You just cannot teach health economics without discussing disparities (and many of the big papers in this area are from epidemiologists and demographers, not economists).  You cannot teach labor economics without having a huge section on discrimination, and while many of the white male economists working in this area have blinders on, it is fairly easy (if you have been listening to people, or if you’re female/minority) to point that out and modify their theories into something more realistic and less bigoted.  Like, of course taste-based discrimination exists, we don’t have competitive markets, duh.  (And current US events during my last semester’s class made it very clear that discrimination can lead to monopoly power, not just be a consequence of it.)  Theories of statistical discrimination should include incorrect stereotypes because we don’t have perfect information, honest to FSM.  Your (not privileged white male) students can generally point out these flaws themselves just using their own experiences and common sense.  You cannot teach public finance without talking about the political economy of race and how these programs affect different groups.  Heck, Political Economy is less than half a class without discussing race.  Similarly, Law and Economics (even if you’re planning on limiting to patents and contract law, race is still a factor!).  Sports economics!  You just cannot do justice to any subject that affects money or people without discussing how race impacts it.  So I include these topics and every year my students have more ideas for things to add.  (Like yes, in health economics we do need to talk about how white doctors have used black women’s bodies and DNA without their permission, you are absolutely right.  That would be a great addition to the Tuskeegee paper we already discuss.)

Second, I have listened to the troubles of our young black female faculty across campus (I was on a university-level thing to improve things, which we sort of did but also mostly didn’t … in any case, we did a lot of listening in addition to convincing the university to allow salary equity bumps and a few other things) who primarily teach these classes that Dr. Logan is suggesting we send our econ majors to.  It is really unfair to them to inundate them with mostly white male econ majors who have been taught that it’s just fine to play devil’s advocate and haven’t really examined their implicit biases at all.  I have enough trouble breaking them in in my intro stats classes.  Can you imagine how disruptive they would be in a discussion based class with women and minorities from what they consider to be lesser majors?  That is going to have huge negative spillovers.

I have other reasons to disagree which may be less ok, and I would modify his advice some.  (Note that since I wrote this post– several other people in the comments of the twitter thread have made these or similar suggestions.)

First off, I agree with him 100% that most of the white dudes in econ who gatekeep and work on racial discrimination start from racist assumptions and for many of them, their main goal is to show how it is Black people’s fault (or women’s fault etc.) for not being more like White men.  It’s only recently that economics has started thinking that no, maybe Black people and women are rational, they’re just playing a different game.  This problem can easily be solved by just saying, “Don’t teach any papers on race by white men (or by Roland Fryer who may be black but has serious issues).”  You can even modify this advice to “Teach only papers on race by black scholars (except not Roland Fryer).”  There’s plenty of great work by black scholars and some by other minorities and women that don’t start with racist assumptions or trying to bend evidence to “prove” racist ideas.  There are even textbooks and summary articles that would be great for lower-level undergraduate classes (William Darity Jr. is a good author/editor to start with).

And there are a LOT of white economists who could themselves benefit from reading this work.  Maybe they should start with So you want to talk about race and/or White Fragility and following Black scholars on twitter.  Then they can move on to articles in academic journals.

In terms of whether or not economists think about discrimination incorrectly… some of them do, but I think we benefit from looking at how different social sciences deal with race and discrimination.  NONE of them give a complete picture.  The assumptions and questions asked are different.  We gain tremendously from thinking about these different viewpoints and different ways of modeling.  (I took Race and the Economy from an amazing Black woman and she incorporated overviews from other fields in the class.  It can be done.)  I could go into huge detail about this, but that would get too long… suffice to say that these different viewpoints complement each other; they are not substitutes.  An economist can learn a lot from how anthropology, sociology, psychology and other fields conceptualize discrimination and other questions involving race.  (Insert rant about irritating white male gate-keepers in labor economics here who think innovation and interdisciplinarity is incorrect.)

Maybe the better advice would be for economist professors themselves to take a few classes across campus, or at the very least, read a textbook from another field, before adding race to their classes.  They should also read up on how to make their classroom more inclusive so that students don’t feel scared to speak up when the professor screws up.

As for me, I have been including race in my classes since I started and I cannot imagine stopping now.  The more I teach, the more I listen to my students, and the more I learn from them, which helps students the next time I teach.  It is a learning process for everybody.  Did I have some cringeworthy moments when I first started, probably, but minority students have been gentle with me and each year I’ve learned more and gotten better and future students benefit from that.

Update:  The more I talk with my colleagues interested in adding a race unit in their classes, the more I’m convinced that my suggestion about only using papers written by minorities is the correct one.  I had no idea that people didn’t know Becker was a huge racist misogynist jerk(!)  I mean, I thought everybody knew that.  People knew it back when he was still young, like decades ago.  So no, DO NOT read Becker in the raw original.  Many of his theory structures are lovely, but read them with the sexist and racist assumptions removed by someone else; there are great minority scholars who have explained the baseline theories and added to them, so go with them.  (William Spriggs talks about some of the problems still inherent today.)

I swear, my colleagues are all going to give up and just end up covering Bertrand and Mullainathan, though I did convince one to try Quillian et al. (in PNAS) instead.  Look, it’s not that B&M isn’t a great paper, it is, but the really horrible overlying thing is that it got into the AER because everybody, including labor economists who should have known better, thought this was the first time a correspondence audit had been done, completely ignoring ALL of the correspondence audits done by Black scholars or non-Americans– I learned about them in my undergrad economics class on Race in the economy.  What I mean is, I’m fairly sure that racism is the reason those earlier audits by black people aren’t known at all.  Quillian and coauthors do a good job of collecting them and plotting their results over time.  (It should have been published in Science, but the racist editor overruled like 7 referees who all said it was must publish.)  Quillian is also white, but he’s a sociologist, so maybe he gets a pass?  Plus he’s very nice.  I’m not sure if there are any minorities in the “et al” portion.  (Plus the econometrics textbook we use has B&M as one of their datasets and students replicate all the ttests and regressions, so it’s not adding that much for our majors.)  Any time I explain this to a White labor economist they get really mad at me because B&M is somehow the first hardcore proof they’ve ever seen about racism against black people other than those small scale in-person audits from like the 70s that somehow Jim Heckman “disproved”  in the 1990s (spoiler:  he didn’t really).

Update 2:  Last night we talked to a number of students and alumni (mostly underrepresented minorities) and they said to be careful to make sure that the lesson is integrated into the curriculum, and to not just have it as a separate unit unconnected with the rest of the class.

RBOC

  • The fabric I ordered from Spoonflower for my MIL said it would come in over a month, but then when that time period passed it added another month delay.  Good thing she’s not expecting an order!  Update:  The internet says it was delivered late June.  Update:  When we talked to her, she said she was wondering if she’d ordered it herself and had just forgotten, so we must have done a good job picking out fabrics she’d like!
  • I also ordered a case of hand sanitizer from Office Depot that was supposed to come May 22nd (many weeks after I’d ordered), but by May 30th it still hadn’t come, so I went and ordered more of the overpriced scented glittery tiny hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works because they had some that were clear (DC2 is allergic to red dye) and I am fairly sure they will actually come because my previous two orders came.  Update:  It came.  My glittery stinky hand sanitizer army grows.  Even the “for men” has glitter in it and smells like horrifically strong aftershave.  (Update:  not all of the little dots inside are glitter– some of them are little black dots that just dissolve on your hands.)
  • My Office Depot hand sanitizer order came deep into June.  I am now SET for hand sanitizer and may even be able to give some of the larger bottles away.  The kids have been having fun reorganizing the bottles into different configurations.  Currently it’s definitely set up like an army from a battle game like Shogun Total War.
  • I ordered a bunch of Statistics related face masks from redbubble.  I hope they come before school starts.  Update:  They came and they’re adorable, but I would not recommend because they’re only 2-layers and they don’t have nose stuff so they want to slip down.  I will probably wear them in conjunction with my single-layer math balaclava.  It is going to be SO HOT teaching.
  • I just realized I know wikipedia brown’s husband.  I wanna be like all fangirly next time I see him but I will try to control myself and not be like, did you know you’re married to Wikipedia Brown??  Because I’m fairly sure he is aware.
  • It’s crazy to me how many people go to all the effort of going to a protest but then just aren’t registered to vote.  This means that protests are an excellent place to get people registered to vote.  But then there’s the problem of folks actually voting.  Usually I see this with college students, probably because they don’t quite know how to register and my state does not make it easy (and they don’t know that they’re allowed to register where we live and their home high school didn’t follow state law about registering seniors), but this time around there were quite a few adults (including minorities) whose registration had lapsed because they didn’t vote in the last local election.  That was astonishing to me.
  • I wish that more of these housewives of doctors blogs that seem to be popping up on blogrolls would say something about doing activism things instead of just talking about decluttering and being socially isolated.
  • I have heard from several of my students (minority and non-minority activist) talking through processing this moment in history and specifically our school’s response.  At our weekly research meeting I brought this up, and not surprisingly, only the women and minority faculty have heard from students, and none of the white men.  I know that white women should be doing more, but I HATE that white men are never expected to do anything.  They do not shoulder emotional burdens.  They do not brainstorm to come up with ways to make things better.  They get to say yes or no, but they don’t actually make things happen.  They’re given a pass for being clueless.  I’m especially not happy that this burden is falling to our untenured junior female faculty much moreso than our tenured white dood faculty.  But also the tenured white dood faculty haven’t done the basic work to have the most basic of conversations.  They want to be good people and they don’t get in the way (which is a step up from many departments), but they don’t want it enough to actually do anything that isn’t super easy.  I told them they should all get a copy of So you want to talk about race or White fragility.  Paper copies may be unavailable some places, but electronic versions are not.  But I don’t think that they will.
  • To fix systemic racism, it’s really mostly white people who need to be fixed.  So all these seminars and so on that are mostly minority students in attendance teaching them about how they’re discriminated against… not so useful.  Seminars teaching them mentory stuff would be more useful, but it is not enough to teach people how to swim, as the NSF says, we must instead drain the pool.  It’s so easy to have fun programs that teach people how to swim, but the hard work comes in draining the pool.  And there are a lot of white people who are full of water.  (Maybe that’s pushing the analogy too far.)
  • After a couple weeks of dealing with the stupid ways my department is dealing with BLM, I now understand what it means when people are upset about a white woman (well-meaning or not) making it all about her.  I want to reiterate that this is NOT the same as white women listing out places to donate/protest/call/etc.  What this looks like is either a well-meaning white woman with little actual knowledge talking about her very recent journey to wokeness in the context of how it makes her feel as a seminar (see above bullet) and then taking questions as an expert, or WORSE a “victimized conservative Christian White lady” who wants to be the “voice of victimized white Christian conservatives” (her words– we LIVE IN THE SOUTH, she is part of the majority) going on paragraph long screeds about what her very narrow definition of racism is and how no other kind of racism other than the overt calling people the n-word exists.  Please, bloggers, keep with your lists and publicizing your actions.  You are not these ladies.
  • Our black students have been very clear on what they want, and continued “conversations” in which white people with no actual knowledge talk at them is not it.  So very much not it.
  • My RA’s husband got Covid and then her entire family (parents, brother, herself) caught it from him.  One of my free summer RAs has gone MIA (they have an internship requirement).  I can’t blame him because he was free, but also I wish he’d said something instead of just disappearing.
  • … One of my senior colleagues died suddenly of a heart attack.  Completely unexpected and he was so healthy (not to mention supportive and productive and just an all around good person).  I’m still in shock.

Jury duty and videos (kitten and otherwise)

In which #1 tries to stave off boredom in the crowded jury assembly room by bothering #2.

#1: welp, I’m sitting in a grim jury assembly room next to a grimmer basement cafeteria. What mischief shall erupt?  Signs say, “Do not stand in this corner. Take a seat.”

I mean…. it’s better than being at work?

well crap, my leg is asleep from these chairs. And no standing in the corner. I guess I can stand up in the cafeteria next door, though.  My mom was on a Grand Jury for a month of drug dealers and child molestation cases. She said it was gross.

who knows, maybe I’ll get called!

The chronicle fora are talking about pasta. Oh man. Do want! (Not hopeful about the options in the cafeteria here…. although it does say today’s special is spaghetti…. sigh)

Marijuana Improves Night Vision of Tadpoles, Study Suggests

I want this now: Tonight’s pasta: tomatoes from the farmers’ market, feta, garlic, parsley, olive oil, and a dash of white wine. Simple and perfectly late summer, with an ear of corn also from the farmers’ market on the side.

ooh this looks good too: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/browned-onion-kugels-231507

also the video they had us watch about being jurors was a masterpiece of … something.

“Deliberation was my favorite part!” –former juror

#2 says:  I liked being on the traffic jury.  There was video and everything of him not stopping at a stop sign.  His argument was that he’d stopped Before the video part– which was like a full car length before the stop sign– which didn’t count as stopping.  So that was super easy… very unlike all the other jury deliberation processes I’ve been on.  It took less time than the first round of jury selection because it was so unimportant.

#1:  My partner and I have a bet about which part of my life would get me thrown out first.  I have a PhD, I want to smash the patriarchy, and the criminal justice system is racist. Go to town.

Also, I was on jury duty the same day as Taylor Swift!!!  (Not in the same state though.)

argle I’m back from lunch and we have to watch the video again!

Ours is a state of beauty…. harmony… but not always. Sometimes we have conflicts. Who can decide fairly? who can make decisions without any personal bias? Many times, we don’t trust any single individual to decide the case.  There are times when no one person should have so much power.  “I feel our system is a bit better than other countries. You get to go to trial” –former Juror.

#2: But Ms. Video Person!  Jury selection is still really racist.  Lawyers can remove a person for any reason.

Democracy is made real every day by thousands of juries across the country

#2: Prosecutors know that black jurors are more likely to find black defendants innocent, so they come up with bogus reasons to remove them, and those bogus reasons have to be accepted.

Even though it means that large swaths of our country are not actually represented fairly.  Leading to a racist justice system.  Prosecutors, just trying to win their cases, will inject racism into the proceedings.  The system is set up so that there is no alternative but racism.

#1:  The attorneys will make opening statements. (fun fact: these are not evidence)  This video is 2/3 done I think….

You’ll weigh what is important, and what is the truth. You will use your everyday common sense.  [p.s. closing statements are not evidence either. They are points of view.] These POVs may oppose each other! Only the jury can decide.

“Trying to come to some sort of agreement with 12 perfect strangers was my favorite part of the whole thing.”  –former Juror.  You may organize yourselves as seems best. It will be your duty to give your opinion, and also, to listen to other. Everyone counts. ..  The decision of the jury has been made! Justice has been served. [I didn’t paraphrase this part, I swear]  “I came out of this process more confident in the system!”

sigh.

quick, time to look at kittens!  http://livestream.com/tinykittens/felicity  Here comes mommy. Baff-time!  Mommy does baff; kitten tries to baff mommy.  Mutual baff.

Here’s #2’s experience on jury duty.

#1:  sigh.  KITTENS.  baby will wrestle mama! no bafftime anymore! oops more bafftime.  Are you seeing how cute this is!  it’s even cuter when they all chirrup at each other.

Now little boy chews his own hand, little girl has fallen asleep.  They have gotten so big! uh oh, brother wants to wrestle sister.  Sister says, BOP on your face!  Sister and brother say, wrassle wrassle. Mama says, I baff my foot.  Mama says, I FEEL LIKE SOMEONE IS WATCHING ME.  Sister has murdered a feather; brother is involved with red fishy toy.

#2:  maybe you could blog about this?

What’s your favorite video about actual justice in the justice system?