‘Don’t Call Me Karen’ Event Angers Uber Employees, DEI Executive Suspended

‘Don’t Call Me Karen’ Event Angers Uber Employees, DEI Executive Suspended

Uber’s recent efforts to move forward may have resulted in a few steps back. Bo Young Lee, who has served as head of diversity at Uber since 2018, was placed on a leave of absence after leading a “Don’t Call Me Karen”  session that upset some employees.

It all began at an April lecture, the first of two events that kicked off a Moving Forward series at Uber, according to The New York Times. As per the invitation, the session intended to foster an “open and honest conversation about race.

However, employees complained that it primarily focused on “diving into the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience” with a focus on “the ‘Karen’ persona,” according to Slack messages obtained by Richard Hanania, the founder of the conservative organization the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology. Workers argued against the framing of the term Karen as hurtful, claiming that it disregarded the harms of racism.

Subsequently, a Black woman posed a question during an Uber all-hands meeting. She asked how the ride-hailing company would address and avoid “tone-deaf, offensive, and triggering conversations” in the workplace.

An employee who attended the event disclosed Lee’s response in their notes. The executive said, “Sometimes being pushed out of your own strategic ignorance is the right thing to do.” This remark sparked more outrage among employees.

The second event, moderated by Lee, took place last Wednesday. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the previous event, and yet Black and Hispanic employees at Uber felt they were being “scolded.” One worker, in particular, expressed her deal with the term “Karen.”

“I think when people are called Karens it’s implied that this is someone that has little empathy to others or is bothered by minorities, others that don’t look like them. Like why can’t bad behavior not be called out?” an employee wrote, per The Times.

The archetype of the Karen has become increasingly visible thanks to a flood of disturbing footage. Most notably, there’s Amy Cooper, the “Central Park Karen,” who called the police on Christian Cooper (no relation), a Black man who was birdwatching and merely asked her to leash her dog in a part of Central Park that required it.

The woman responded by yelling at the bird watcher and told the cops that he was threatening her, invoking his race on the call. This incident provoked a national discourse about the dangers associated when Black people are falsely accused.