advocacy

Meet Elizabethton, Tennessee’s Sonya Holt, ex-Keith Family Vision Clinic employee

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Sonya Holt, 47, of Elizabethton, Tennessee, United States is the most recent addition to the Karens list of the U.S. Recently, Americans have been using the name Karen to refer to white women who either show entitled behavior or speak racist remarks or both.

On July 4, 2020, members of the Black Lives Matter group New Panther Initiative and other supporters gathered at Covered Bridge Park in Elizabethton and Holt was among those who went there as counter-protesters. The rally marked the first time she attended a rally and her intention was to show support for police officers, according to her.

Sonya Holt
Sonya Holt

“We need to stand united,” Holt told WCYB during the rally. “We are America. We’re not black. We’re not yellow. We’re not white. We are America.”

Holt was standing at the rally with a right-wing group with Confederate flags. She was caught on tape hurling racist remarks to Sierra Gilmer, 16, a board member of the social justice advocate group New Generation Freedom Fighters.

Wearing black sunglasses and holding a flip phone, Holt told Gilmer that “white lives matter” and “white lives are better.” The Elizabethton resident even referred to the teenage activist as “black, twisted, crazy person.”

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Beside Holt was a man also caught on tape telling Gilmer that white people should have kept black people as slaves. Holt claimed that she did not know the man, who is a former employee at Big Dan’s BBQ in Elizabethton.

In the same rally, Holt was caught on tape telling another protester named Seth Loven that he was “a gay homosexual piece of crap who’s going to burn in hell.” She was wearing a T-shirt bearing the name of the Tennessee Volunteers (Vols), the male varsity intercollegiate athletics programs representing the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee and former Vols football player Darrell Taylor condemned her actions at the rally.

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The Carter County Schools denied the rumor that Holt was an employee of the school district. She worked at Keith Family Vision Clinic in Johnson City, Tennessee but on July 6, 2020, the clinic confirmed that she was no longer their employee.

Holt’s racist remarks caught on tape earned her the names the Covered Bridge Karen and the East Tennessee Karen. On July 7, 2020, she apologized to both Gilmer and Loven in an interview with WJHL.

According to Holt, she would have never spoken to Gilmer if she had known she was a minor. She claimed that she just lashed out after Loven repeatedly called her Ku Klux Karen because of her haircut but he denied this and he was not heard saying such in the video of the incident.

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