Black Memes Matter: #LivingWhileBlack With Becky and Karen

Williams, Apryl
Social Media + Society

"BBQ Becky" and "Karen" memes reference real-world incidents in which Black individuals were harassed by White women in public spaces. In what I term the BBQ Becky meme genre, Black meme creators use humor, satire, and strategic positioning to perform a set of interrelated social commentaries on the behavior of White women. By conducting a visual Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis (CTDA) of BBQ Becky memes, I argue that Becky and Karen memes are a cultural critique of White surveillance and White racial dominance. I find that memes in the BBQ Becky meme genre call attention to, and reject, White women?s surveillance and regulation of Black bodies in public spaces?making an important connection between racialized surveillance of the past and contemporary acts of ?casual? racism. This meme genre also disrupts White supremacist logics and performative racial ignorance by framing Karens and Beckys as racist?not just disgruntled or entitled. Finally, in a subversion and reversal of power dynamics, Karen and BBQ Becky memes police White supremacy and explicitly call for consequences, providing Black communities with a form of agency. Hence, I conclude that Black memes matter in the struggle for racial equity.