The phenomenon of the "Karen" has become increasingly prevalent in the past year, as Black people have begun recording white women who have breakdowns in public after interacting with them. The latest example of this trend is Abigail Elphick, a white woman who was filmed chasing Ijeoma Ukenta, a Black woman, through Victoria's Secret. The incident has gone viral, in part because of the videos Ijeoma posted of Abigail crying and screaming.
Abigail became a viral Karen after appearing to charge at at Ijeoma.
In the videos, which were posted on TikTok and YouTube, viewers can see Abigail lunge toward Ijeoma as if she's prepared to hurt her. Abigail is also screaming throughout the videos, asking Ijeoma to stop recording her. In follow-up videos, police are eventually called to the scene, and Ijeoma wonders why they won't escort Abigail out of the mall for her behavior.
Ijeoma is quick to point out the double standard, suggesting that if she had been the one who had charged at Abigail, she surely would have been escorted out of the mall if not worse.
Thankfully, no one was hurt during the encounter, but Ijeoma says in the videos that Abigail attempted to assault her twice. The reaction online has been somewhat divided, although many have pointed out that the police were working off of a double standard in providing Abigail with so much sympathy.
Abigail said she was having a mental health crisis.
At one point in Ijeoma's videos, Abigail asks her to stop recording because she's experiencing a mental health crisis. It's impossible to say whether that's true from the videos alone, but her behavior in the videos certainly seems erratic. She lays on the floor silently for a few minutes before continuing to yell and scream at Ijeoma for recording her.
It's clear that Abigail was upset, and Ijeoma's decision to film the encounter may have added to the stress she was feeling. Even so, Abigail's mental health issues do not excuse her poor behavior, especially when it comes to possibly attempting to get violent with Ijeoma.
If she was experiencing a legitimate mental health crisis — and it's very possible she was — she should seek treatment, but that doesn't necessarily give her a free pass.
Abigail is the latest in a long line of "Karens" to freak out in public.
Although Abigail's public display may seem somewhat strange, she's far from the first woman to do something like this when confronted by a Black person. It's a strange and troubling trend that seems to be rooted in deep-seated, unaddressed biases, and one that needs to be reckoned with.
Ijeoma was the clear victim in this situation, although Abigail seems to have gone to some lengths to try to portray herself as the one being victimized. The encounter and the police action that followed likely weren't how either woman wanted to be spending her day, but it was Abigail's actions, and not Ijeoma's, that ultimately led to the videos that are now viral across the internet.