Why I’m Okay With Central Park Karen’s Slap on the Wrist
Last week, Amy Cooper, the infamous “Central Park Karen,” had charges against her dropped after completing a “restorative justice” alternative.
Cooper, who called 911 and falsely accused Christian Cooper (no relation) of threatening her in Central Park last summer, became the peak embodiment of Karen behavior — in large part because her behavior happened just as America found itself embroiled in civil unrest over police brutality.
The charges were dropped after she completed five therapy sessions “designed for introspection and progress,” assistant district attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said at a brief virtual hearing. Five therapy sessions? A slap on the wrist.
But maybe that’s enough.
Before I go further, let me get something out of the way: Amy Cooper is a genuinely awful person. Her racist actions could have led to deadly consequences. She weaponized both her Whiteness and the police in order to get her way. Either one of those was a recipe for disaster; together, they all too easily could have resulted in a man’s death.
But if we’re being honest, this whole saga probably needed to end the way it did for a few reasons.
1. She got a powerful dragging.
I’m a firm believer that nobody is ever really canceled, except for Chrisette Michelle and Daniel Caesar (though he literally asked for it). Cooper did, however, manage to get a mighty dragging down internet streets. That dragging resulted in her losing her job and her dog (temporarily); she even had a bill named after her. The “Amy Cooper” bill made it a hate crime to use 911 to make false accusations made on race.
2. The man she harmed said enough was enough.
Someone once told me not to fight harder for someone than they are willing to fight for themselves — and Christian Cooper tapped out of all the hoopla pretty early, declining to participate in the prosecution of Amy Cooper.
“Would I consider it fair and just if Cooper were found guilty and sentenced to anti-bias training and some form of community service?” he explained. “Yes. But Black people know all too well that the criminal justice system often doesn’t work that way… All for an offense from which I suffered no harm, physical or mental. That wouldn’t be a commensurate punishment.”
3. We want restorative justice, right?
One of the best and worst things about activism — especially Black activism — is that it typically benefits everyone. Many want to see less reliance on an overly punitive justice system. We want police to be demilitarized and defunded. We want prisons abolished. These ideas benefit everyone even if they have the greatest per capita impact on Black people. It’s a prime example of the mantra, “Keep that same energy.”
Do I think the five classes Amy Cooper slogged through to get her charges dropped really had any substantive change? No. If it did, racism and every other “ism” would have been long eradicated. But assuming that jails and prisons never leave the American landscape, shouldn’t we save room for more egregious crimes? I would rather save a cot for the killers of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
4. There are already too many Karens (and Kens)
Crucify one bad actor, and you risk the absolution of all the others. It’s like killing a single zombie and hoping the rest of the horde simply lies down. As a friend once stated, Amy Cooper is a feature of the system, not a bug.
I can’t say it enough. Amy Cooper is a terrible human. The schadenfreude of everything she experienced since her failed attempt to use 911 as a racist magic wand designed to make the scary Black man disappear was highly satisfying. But her role in the long, long history of racism, White fragility, and the deification of White women in America needed to conclude.