The Other Side of Karen

Alice Garbarini Hurley
7 min readDec 24, 2020

I‘ve known Susan, the White woman at the heart of a Montclair racial controversy that went viral, for 21 years — and I have some good things to say about her.

Montclair — home of White privilege or ordinary neighbor bristling? Photo from HERE.

Saturday, July 18, was hot and sticky. Kate, who was hosting our book club, stirred up icy gin and tonics. She had just perfected the recipe on a trip to Cape Cod. We were on the patio in her sweet Montclair backyard, over by Mount Hebron Road. We settled into lawn chairs surrounded by pretty hydrangeas.

Our longstanding group had met monthly on Zoom since the pandemic took hold in March, but we missed being in person, and thought we could swing it if we stayed masked when not eating or drinking, sat at a distance and didn’t dig into a shared platter.

Counting our hostess, six of our seven members were there. After we ate the bagged lunches we brought, Kate plated still warm, melty brownie squares that were gluten-free, to accommodate member Anne.

The book we had read: White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo. (Adding this note December 31, eight days after publishing this Medium story. I should clarify that my book group read the book, but I only skimmed its premise. I do that a lot, as we have started to meet more often — monthly —and I cannot maintain the pace. I get distracted and scattered with other reading, work, remote school and complicated family issues. Simply put, I can’t keep up with the reading, whether fiction or nonfiction. But my fellow book group members do — and the discussion was heated that day. I had a lot to say, even without reading the book.)

That topic sparked one of our most heartfelt and emotional exchanges, precisely because of that precarious moment in time. Several of us had walked (separately) on Sunday afternoon, June 7 in the Black Lives Matter March in Montclair.

I had joined the protest with my young adult daughter and my friend, and when we walked past the Montclair Police Station on Valley Road, I noticed a young, uniformed Black officer leaning on the threshold, watching. What did he think, caught on a precipice between being a Black man and a police officer, listening to our chants against police brutality?

We six White women on a patio that Saturday afternoon knew full well that we could not really understand how it felt to be Black, though…

Alice Garbarini Hurley

Magazine maven, craft coffee lover, legal guardian. Passionate about fashion and lipstick — though it may not look that way when I dash to the supermarket.