Karen wants to speak with the manager about systemic racism

Melissa McCrery

Below is an abridged version of a video by Melissa McCrery (someone I’d never heard of before last week). The video made an impression on me – two impressions, in fact: the second one better than the first.

McCrery is a pro-Trump, Christian conservative, formerly from corporate America. These facts don’t come through in the original video, although she begins with at least two minutes of exposition – as if bracing her regular Facebook followers for some kind of crazy talk nobody would ever expect from her.

And then it comes out (spoiler/paraphrasing): I’ve seen the video of the murder of George Floyd, and I finally believe in systemic racism. White Americans can’t stand on the sidelines.

Reader’s Digest Abridged Edition

Here’s my slightly abridged version, cut down from 13 minutes to 9 minutes:

Karen wants to speak with the manager about systemic racism - Ted Johnson

Note: The original video is portrait orientation, and shows her whole face.

My first impression: Who cares, Karen?

McCrery’s video was posted to a Facebook group. At first I didn’t make it past the first 90 seconds. I bailed on the video.

The antithesis of clickbait

She struck me as a “Karen,” per the unkind meme: an entitled, white, self-important, anti-vaxxer soccer mom with speak-to-the-manager hair.

She led by saying, “this is not going to be anything particularly original.” It was unclear what her point was, or how long I’d have to watch before she got to it. The video had no title, and the description began, “As much as I HATE identity politics- AS A WHITE WOMAN- I have something to say…”

I paused the video and left the first Facebook comment in the group. I asked whether the video was worth watching – except that I asked in a really snotty way. The person who posted the video and I got into an, um, adversarial exchange, which dominated the comments. Unfortunately, it distracted from the substance of the video.

I’m sorry. Enough said about that – except that I was convinced to give the video a full viewing.

Second Impression: What bubble do you live in, Karen?

How often have you heard a white person claim not to be racist, while dismissing racism? Like, at least 1000 times, right? It always sounds disingenuous.

In her long preamble, McCrery sounds just like all of those dismissive white people. She even indicates that, with previous high-profile police killings of black men, she has always been inclined to give the police the benefit of the doubt.

And then…

McCrery admits she has discovered her blind spot, and she is now mad as H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks!

If that is the case, [that systemic racism exists], it is going to take every freaking white American to fix this problem.

It seems more plausible to me now that some people aren’t simply and disingenuously denying that systemic racism exists, but that they sincerely do not believe it exists.

(To be clear: I’m not saying it’s always plausible with all people who make this claim, but rather sometimes plausible with some people.)

I grew up in Arizona, in a middle-class, majority-white suburb. I went to public schools. I estimate that McCrery and I are not far apart in age. But I’ve known about systemic racism my whole life. If I’m surprised by anything in McCrery’s video, it’s this: Some people really do live in these bubbles.

“First of all,” McCrery says, “forgive me for not having that lens.”

She starts to fix her blind spot

I doubt that there’s much on which McCrery and I would agree. But I admire how she responds to having discovered a blind spot. It’s exactly how I like to think I respond to discovering my own: by seeking to correct my perspective as best I can.

Many people would have sought their favorite sources of confirmation bias; sought not to believe their lying eyes when they saw George Floyd die under the knee of a Minnesota cop. (This is not hypothetical. Many people are still denying the existence of systemic racism.)

McCrery’s response is not perfect by any means. There’s more than a whiff of “white savior complex” coming from inside her car – the new convert variety. But her video has been viewed more than 13 million times, and is likely giving many people permission to move their hearts in the same direction.


  1. Lauren Davis Reply
    June 7, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    Hi there, Melissa is my aunt, I love her dearly. I can say this much about her… I wish you could see how far she has come. She is opening so many eyes. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message.

  2. Chuck Reply
    June 8, 2020 at 5:22 am

    She is admitting to having a change of heart? Really, that’s the only way white America can solve this problem. I really don’t give a damn about her hair, any sort of perceived self-importance, or her clumsiness with staging a video. What’s important here is that she has identified something where she is willing to supply more empathy and thoughtfulness. Doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s a step forward. Little victories will add up to change.

    This might be part of why I have become so frustrated with liberal/progressive advocacy, especially on social networks. It is so quick to blame, so quick to shame, so quick to try to score intellectual smart ass points. “Ha, ha! I’m so much smarter than you dumb ass FOX News sheeple.” Right. Very effective.

    You (or they, we, or I) want to change things, we’re are left with a few choices. 1. Kill everyone who disagrees with you. 2. Install an authoritarian government sympathetic to your view. 3. Persuade people to change. (and 4. Also, change ourselves.)

    I’m going with a combo of 3 and 4. That’s sort what I though democracy at its best was about.

    One bit of hope I’m getting from all of this is seeing unexpected admissions and revelations from people like Lisa Murkowski or Pat Robertson. Another bit is that white people demanding and celebrating peaceful protest while turning a deaf ear to it is going to result in explosive anger – as it should. And I think this time a lot of white people are seeing that fact for the first time and then saying, “Yes. You know, we had better fucking fix this for real.” Great, we love MLK and have for 50 years. Why the fuck haven’t we changed things yet?

    And quite frankly, I’ve learned a few things about my own blind spots – a few new things about how to process all that is happening.

    2 cents. You asked my opinion.

  3. Chuck Reply
    June 8, 2020 at 5:57 am

    Also, Karen might actually change someone’s mind because she changed her mind. You, me, Al Sharpton, Nicholas Kristof… we’re all preaching to the choir. Nobody who disagrees with us likely cares much what we think. But six of Karen’s friends might actually be going, “Whoa, wait a minute…” And that’s huge.

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