Recently, a video depicting an Arizona "Karen" verbally and physically assaulting a young lady and her male friend who were minding their own business in a gas station convenience store went viral online. You can read our coverage of the incident here.
After the woman was identified, however, her husband came forward and apologized for her behavior which he claims was caused by mental illness. However disability rights advocates state such dismissal of bad behavior and the blaming of mental illness for racist outbursts or violence hurts people who have mental illness.
People diagnosed and living with mental illness do not suddenly become racist because of their illness, however mental illness—much like drugs and alcohol—can make a racist person uninhibited enough to spout racist rhetoric and exhibit racist behavior publicly.
In the video, a woman identified as Tamara Harrian claims to be a manager at a small convenience store and gas station. She demands a young lady, Karina Rodriguez, "go back to her country." The Shell convenience store later revealed to TMZ that Harrian was not the manager, was never an employee and is no longer welcome at any of their national locations.
During the conflict Harrian gets in the face of Rodriguez, her friend and the person who filmed the encounter, Greg Conn, telling them they need to leave.
She also puts her hands on the young man with Rodriguez.
Finally, Harrian tells Rodriguez "you're going back to Mexico" and pushes the much smaller woman and grabs at her shoulder and clothing.
The young woman responded by slapping Harrian across the face, after which the older woman storms off. The internet quickly labeled Harrian a "Karen," a White woman who calls the police or makes a scene over minorities minding their own business in public.
Karina Rodriguez spoke out after the incident.
'I was appalled at the behavior she was displaying': Woman harassed at Phoenix gas station speaks ou www.youtube.com
Rodriguez told her side of the story to MSN:
"She saw a bunch of people of color that she didn't like and decided to come for us...It hurt my feelings for other people that can't protect or defend themselves."
She went on to say:
"I just want to be the motion that moves forward and just shows our generation we can't stand for this, that we should be better than they are, than they were, we should realize our faults within ourselves and work forward to make ourselves and our world and our country better."
In an expected move, Harrian's husband Bob spoke to Fox 10 Phoenix and claimed his wife's racist outburst was the result of an unidentified mental illness.
In a direct appeal to Rodriguez, Bob Harrian said:
"Karina, I don't know what to say. I'm just so sorry...I'm just so sorry that this happened. You never walked into that store thinking something like this was going to happen."
Harrian's husband continued:
"I understand, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what she said. It was very hateful. It was — it's indefensible. But I just have to tell you this: It's her mental illness. A year ago, she would … never have even thought of that."
The husband, a lawyer, said he was so concerned following his wife's racist outburst that he had a "crisis management team" speak with Tamara for an hour following the incident.
Fox 10 confirmed the team met with Harrian.
Bob Harrian claimed his wife began showing strange behaviors and paranoia in the aftermath of a break-in which occurred about a year ago.
He said in an interview with 12 News:
"This is your spouse you have known and loved for 30 years and she is starting to slip away. And you are trying to get her help but you can't get her help because she doesn't think there is anything wrong with her."
Harrian's law office, where his wife was listed as the office manager until after the incident, was targeted in online review websites and apps.
The husband later returned to the Shell and apologized on behalf of his wife. Harrian insists no charges will be pressed against Rodriguez over her decision to defend herself after his wife pushed and grabbed her.