“Becky & Karen” making the world a living hell for BIPOC people since 1619

Tonya Pinkins
5 min readJul 17, 2020

Black women are intimately familiar with “Becky” and “Karen.” White women who on the low end of the spectrum treat us as invisible and on the high end weaponize their whiteness and sometimes cost us our lives.

I am a Tony award-winning actress who in 2015 portrayed Jacklyn in Rasheeda Speaking at The New Group opposite two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest. The play is a dramatization of a #KarenGoneWild in the workplace. Director Cynthia Nixon was a #KarenGoneWild. The juxtaposition of the Covid-19 pandemic and #Uprisings2020 have now made Becky and Karen internationally famous to white people, with over 773,000 instagram posts for #Karen. White people are often slow to catch on to the day-to-day reality of Black and Brown folks.

In January 2020 I was invited to sit on a panel at The Atlantic Theater Stage 2 production of Paris by Eboni Booth. Kelley Girod, playwright and founder of The Fire This Time Festival, was the moderator. We were joined by Booth and actress Jules Latimer who played the lead character ‘Emmie.’ Paris is about a Black woman who has fallen on hard times and finds herself working at the equivalent of an Amazon warehouse, a job considerably below her level of education and intelligence. But as we all know this is what the American dream has become; working two part time jobs to barely make ends meet with zero benefits and still needing to collect a government subsidy. Emmie faces regular micro-aggressions from her mostly white coworkers…