New “Karen” designation on school census stirs controversy

Who are we calling Karen?

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Karen has become a popular derogatory term to refer to middle age White women who act with a sense of privilege.

It was used to label a woman in Torrance, CA caught on video verbally assaulting Asian Americans with racial slurs, but it also refers to a people from a state in Myanmar.

At least 64,759 refugees from Karen have resettled in the United States. According to the MPR News, 215,000 Karens currently live in the U.S.

When the Madison School District in Wisconsin added Karen to its online student enrollment form as an ethnicity, some took offense.

“I tried working behind the scenes to remedy this,” wrote Angela Jenkins, a former Madison City Council candidate said to the Wisconsin State Journal. “I checked today and it has not been resolved. This is not acceptable. Where is the quality check and more importantly, who approved this?”

Some have suggested removing the Karen designation on the form and instead encouraging Karens to check the “other box.”

That suggestion, however, has raised concerns of its own.

Department of Public Instruction spokesperson Chris Bucher told the State Journal a Karen designation allows districts “to collect more specific information for the purpose of targeting programs and supporting students from marginalized groups.”

He says removing “Karen” from the census would also require the district to also remove Liberian, Salvadorian, Ho-Chunk and more.

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