The Karenization of Amy Cooper

she knew the gravity of her words

You’ve probably heard about the story of Amy Cooper, a white woman in Central Park. She could not be bothered to leash her dog, specifically required in the Ramble, a secluded section of the park popular with bird-watchers. Christian Cooper (no relation), a black man, and an avid birder pointed out the signage.

The now-famous video, viewed more than 40 million times. Amy approaches Christian and asks him to stop filming her, threatening to call the police. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she says. Her multitasking of dialing the police while holding her dog halfway off the ground went awry as the cocker spaniel thrashed around, trying to break free.

Amy Cooper lost her job at investment firm Franklin Templeton. She relinquished ownership of the dog as well.

Too glib

A couple of things about this story really bug me. One, obviously, involves the facts of the case. The other, though, is the reductivist moniker of Amy Cooper being labeled a Karen.

For those of you not in the know, a Karen is “a mocking slang term for an entitled, obnoxious, middle-aged white woman. Especially as featured in memes, Karen is generally stereotyped as having a blonde bob haircut, asking to speak to retail and restaurant managers to voice complaints or make demands, and being a nagging, often divorced mother from Generation X.”

I mean, if you are named Karen, Sharon, Becky, or Chad, How it feels when your name becomes a meme? I’m on the record hating Bye, Felicia.

It was Melody Cooper, Christian’s sister who first labeled her. “Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off-leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash.”

These labels seem to be directed far more at women than men. My daughter notes that a Karen is called different things, depending on her age; Kayleigh, Becky, Karen (roughly 35-44), Susan, and Gertrude. I don’t know a Kayleigh, but I’ve known women with the other names, and I find the designations demeaning.

More than a complaint to the manager

In any case, the actions of Amy Cooper were far more dangerous than the flippant designation. As the Boston Globe noted, “When [she] charged Christian and yelled, ‘I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,’ she knew the gravity of her words. Amy, not Christian, was the real danger, as she wielded the kind of weaponry that led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis that same night.”

CNN’s John Blake notes, “There’s one epidemic we may never find a vaccine for: fear of black men in public spaces.” Specifically, “Why are black men still so feared in 2020? And what will it take for it to stop?”

Blake believes that “until more white people actually live among and befriend black people, that fear will persist. We have stories of white people who learned how to see the full humanity of black people after being forced into environments where they were ‘the only white person in the room.’

“Some were white jazz musicians or athletes who learned what it was like to share rooms, meals, and private lives with black men. One was Bill Bradley, the former Rhodes Scholar, NBA player, and US Senator… He talked about how he changed after becoming one of the few whites on the New York Knicks in the 1970s.

“‘I better understand distrust and suspicion [and] the meaning of certain looks and certain codes… What it is to be in racial situations for which you have no frame of reference,’ Bradley said in a 1991 speech to the National Press Club. ‘I understand the tension of always being on guard, of never totally relaxing.'”

As good as his name

Meanwhile, Christian Cooper is asking people to stop making death threats against the woman who called the cops on him

“‘That action was racist. Does that make [Amy Cooper] a racist? I can’t answer that. Only she can with what she does going forward,’ the former Marvel Comics editor, Harvard graduate and board member of the New York City Audubon Society said. He believed her actions went to a “racist place,” but wasn’t happy she lost her livelihood.

Never heard of that band – oh, THEM!

Lonely People was used as the sign off song for a Washington, DC TV station for a time in the late 1970s or early 1980s, back when TV stations actually signed off.

I was reminded that back in the early 1970s, the student government at the State University College of New York at New Paltz put on a bunch of concerts, many of which I attended. But I remember reading about one in the Fall of 1971 by some group I had never heard of. The show cost only 50 cents, but I passed.

That group was America, whose A Horse With No Name went to #1 the very next year. In penance, I bought that first album and played it regularly. They’d later have hits such as Ventura Highway, Tin Man, and Lonely People, which I wrote about here.

In 1995, my girlfriend at the time, Carol – now my wife – and I were meeting my old (as in since kindergarten ) friend Karen and this guy from a local (Albany area) radio station named Johnny. As it turned out, Carol and Johnny were acquainted because they’d lived in the same area. After dinner, Karen and the radio guy invited Carol and me to see this musical act which I had never heard of. I might have gone, but Carol was tired so we opted out.

The artist turned out to be Moby, a descendant of Herman Melville, BTW, who had a massively successful album at the end of the decade called Play. What put me in mind about this story was Pantheon Songs’ tribute to a Moby tune that had come out a few years before that dinner, but I had not heard at the time.

Proximate disaster

A blizzard and several avalanches in the Himalayas in central Nepal are reported to have killed more than two dozen people

HimalayasWhen I read about wildfires in San Diego County, California or flooding in Mecklenberg County (Charlotte), North Carolina, I contact the appropriate sister to check out if she’s being affected. Usually the answer is no, though one year, a fire was uncomfortably close.

They do the same for me. Flash floods five miles from Albany made the national news, but the actual storm missed me.

I was thinking about this because Continue reading “Proximate disaster”

I want the NEW Paul McCartney

Hint to Wife: NEW by MACCA is #1 on my Christmas list,

My friend Karen, who I’ve only known since we were in kindergarten, wrote this article for our sixth grade newsletter in which she was the winner of a contest to fly to England and see the Beatles in person. Back in 1980, her record company put out John & Yoko’s Double Fantasy album, but that was an arm’s-length situation.

Now, her current record company is putting out the new album by Paul McCartney, NEW, and while he’s in the New York City area, she’s spending time with him. This means she was THERE when Macca surprised a Queens high school with an auditorium rock show, plus Q&A on John Lennon’s birthday; she described it as a most satisfying experience. The day before, when she was with him doing interviews for nearly five hours, was another highlight. Continue reading “I want the NEW Paul McCartney”

Friend Karen is 60

Karen had wanted to be in the music business as long as I could remember.

Karen I’ve known since kindergarten, and we went from K through 12th grade together in Binghamton, NY. Back in seventh grade or so, she really got into astrology. I don’t mean just looking at the daily newspaper column, but doing a serious investigation. While I wasn’t a true believer, I found it eerie how accurate they could be. She was born only 46 hours after I was, so there was some overlap between hers and mine.

When we were in high school, there was this silly rule that, when you were running for student government, you could not give your own nominating speech. I gave Karen’s when she ran for secretary, a speech that everyone said was one of the best ever. She won. The following year, they changed the rules so that the candidate gave the speech; my address for myself, running for president, was not nearly as good, by my own reckoning (I won anyway).

In 1977, when I was adrift, she gave me a real (verbal) kick in the butt. In the early 1980s Continue reading “Friend Karen is 60”