Jail That Karen: Why Amy Cooper Should be Arrested
On this episode of democracy-ish, our hosts debate the personal and political aspects of gun ownership and what justice should look like in the saga of Amy vs. Christian Cooper. Plus, Danielle presides over the Black Lady Courtroom.
A number of prominent Black voices argue that Amy Cooper has suffered enough –– including her victim, Christian Cooper. Has she, really?
In these turbulent times, Black Americans have every reason to fear for their safety. According to the New York Times, some are reacting in a way they never imagined: by buying guns.
Are firearm purchases really a path to empowerment? Or are Black Americans as vulnerable as ever?
This week, Toure and Danielle dig into two arguments floating around in the ether of our culture.
First, what to do about Amy Cooper, a.k.a. Central Park Karen. She lost her job –– and even (temporarily) her dog. But should she be charged with a crime?
And: If a recent feature in the New York Times is any indication, Black folks are embracing their second-amendment rights and arming themselves in ever-growing numbers.
How do we feel about that? TL; DR: It’s complicated.
Episode Highlights –– Arrest Amy Cooper
(White) lady justice
A number of prominent Black intellectuals argue that Amy Cooper has already paid for her mistakes, including Christian Cooper, who says she has suffered enough.
“Christian Cooper, God bless him … maybe he doesn't want bad karma,” says Danielle. “But this isn't just about him. The fact is, Christian Cooper could be a hashtag.”
The idea that, as the victim, Christian can somehow veto the punishment of his perpetrator, “is not how American justice works,” Toure notes.
If Amy Cooper was prosecuted, it would send a powerful message to “the Karens of the world,” Danielle says: You can be fined and jailed for acts of racism.
“I don't care that she lost her job,” she adds. “I don't care that her name is being dragged through the mud. She knew what she was doing. She knew she was being videotaped. She didn't care. So I don't care.”
Toure sees Amy Cooper’s crime as “premeditated evil” and arguably attempted murder.
When she called the cops, she surely knew there was a chance he could be beaten –– or killed.
“But she rolled the dice and was like, whatever happens to you, I don't give a fuck. I want you to know that I am the superior actor in this situation, because I am white,” he adds.
Amy Cooper knew that the police would have seen her as a “damsel in distress who needed them to rush in and save her from the clutches of the evil Black man,” says Danielle. “That's the picture she painted. And when she changed the octave in her voice … That bitch probably got a fine arts degree in drama for what she put forward.”
“Did she even need that?” Toure asks. “Because she knows innately, and others respond to it: The power of white female tears.”
Karen does the perp walk
Amy Cooper hasn’t suffered enough, Toure argues.
He wants “to see her in the bracelets … and do the perp walk. I want to see her go through the trauma and indignation of being arrested, briefly jailed … going before a judge. Having a record. Do I think that she's going to get prison time? No. Should she? Yeah.”
“I think that she should serve six months to a year. That should be the penalty for making a false call to the police. And she should face a significant fine –– what seems like it would hurt? $25,000. Because she wasted the public's tax dollars by calling the police. She endangered the person she called the police on.”
It’s doubtful Amy Cooper will be prosecuted for reckless Karening, but Black citizens are routinely punished for the smallest infractions, Danielle points out.
We see side-by-side penalties all the time: A young white guy steals something and is sentenced to two years probation. A Black guy of the same age, convicted of the same crime, is put away for five to 10 years, a felon for life.
Take Kelley Williams-Bolar, an Ohio woman who lied about her address so her daughter could go to a slightly better public school. She was sentenced to three years in prison.
Amy Cooper, on the other hand, tried to kill someone –– or at the very least, had no qualms about taking actions that could ruin his life.
If the incident between Amy and Christian Cooper had unfolded without a camera present, police would believe he attacked her. What would happen then?
It would be Christian who’d lose everything he holds dear, Toure says –– his job, his place on the board of the National Audubon Society. If not his life.
“Well, now I'm changing it,” says Danielle. “In the democracy-ish Law and Order Special Victims Unit … I'm upping Amy Cooper's time to four years.”
“Black Lady Courtrooom!” Toure sings.
Don’t get Cooper-ed
The next time an oh-so-concerned citizen makes a phony call, “I could get Coopered,” says Toure.
He thinks about John Crawford, who was killed after a 911 caller saw him handling a pellet gun at a Walmart.
“Somebody made a call and lied about the situation. Police ran in and shot him … That person should do time. The person who called about Tamir Rice should do time.”
In that case, Danielle wonders: Should we re-litigate cases in which phone calls led to innocent Black people being killed –– even if it's been many years later?
“I think so,” Toure says. “If your bullshit call includes a lie that leads to somebody dying, that should be on you as well. The police should definitely have culpability and accountability. But if you hadn’t called, you wouldn’t have put this in motion.”
Make your list and check it thrice
“I want all the Karens, who are quick to pick up the phone because they see a Black man dancing in the street, or walking down the street, or sitting in a car, to think fucking thrice –– not just twice, but three times,” says Toure.
“Or ask yourself very simple questions,” Danielle suggests. “Am I in danger? Am I at risk? Am I witnessing a criminal act?”
When we see videos of incidents like the one between Amy and Christian, “none of those boxes could be checked,” she points out. “And maybe 911 operators should be trained to ask these questions. Maybe there is a checklist to go through.”
Guns = safety?
Last week, the Gray Lady published an opinion piece titled “I’m a Black American. I Need a Gun to Feel Safe in This Country.” The short essay and video were a bit confounding to Toure.
“I think the NRA bought space in the New York Times,” he jokes. “It was a group of Black people saying, I don't feel safe in this country … my answer is to get a gun … this struck me as completely insane.”
The vast majority of Black Americans don’t own guns, compared to the percentage of white people who do.
“Even though we are fully aware of the physical danger we’re in,” Toure says, “we’ve chosen to not even the stakes.”
Second amendment rights for all
Danielle’s feelings on gun ownership have evolved lately.
“I don't want to have a gun in my home. But what I have been seeing on social media and in reporting is that Black people are buying guns at a higher rate than ever before … We have just as much access and right to the second amendment as white people do.”
Black people are dying regardless of whether they’re armed or unarmed, whether they have a permit or not –– like Philando Castile, who simply told the cop who murdered him that he had a registered firearm.
“The reality is, Black people feel more unsafe than we’ve ever felt before,” Danielle adds. “I think that if we feel the desire … we should learn how to shoot. How to handle ourselves. I think it’s a form of self-defense.”
It’s crucial for training and safety to come first, she says. And she’s not suggesting that anyone should pull a gun on a cop, threaten protestors or brandish a weapon in a parking lot.
“But it’s okay for Black people to say, I want to protect myself and my family.”
More powerful, or more vulnerable?
This isn’t the first call to arms for Black folks in America. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Black Panther Party urged us to exercise our second amendment rights in self-defense. (It’s worth noting that the modern NRA, as we know it, really coalesced around that time.)
Toure understands the impulse to protect your home and your family. But he rejects the idea that guns will make us “more powerful, more liberated, more free.”
If more guns actually made us safer, “America will be the safest country in the world,” he adds.
But they make us more vulnerable. He points out that having a gun in the home increases the risk of accidents, suicide and domestic violence. Kenneth Walker’s gun didn’t save his girlfriend, Breonna Taylor, when the cops used a battering ram to enter their apartment.
Toure argues that we have too many guns in this country –– period. We need better laws, more training and a widespread understanding that it’s unwise to pull a gun the second someone feels threatened.
“I don't think the path to progress is acting as badly, aggressively and ridiculously as [white gun owners] do,” he says.
Shoot the virus away
Like Confederate statues and Colin Kapernick, gun control is a classic wedge issue that Trump loves to bloviate about in an effort to rile up his base. So naturally, he claimed that lawmakers are using the pandemic to take our guns away.
“What the fuck?” asks Danielle. “I had no idea that an AR-15 was like bleach or hydroxychloroquine. That it can kill the coronavirus. I didn't know you could shoot it away.”
If that was true, America wouldn’t be the epicenter of a global pandemic.