But Amy Cooper is a racist

You’ve probably already heard this story of a woman in Central Park who was letting her dog run off-leash and called the cops on a black man recording her behavior.

“I’m taking a picture and calling the cops,” Amy Cooper is heard saying in the video. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”

That’s become mundane and ordinary. Beckys and Karens expressing their dismay at black people just living ordinary lives is common, it seems.

But this is extraordinary: she offers her excuse.

“I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way,” she said, adding that she also didn’t mean any harm to the African American community.

Wait a minute. That’s patently false. There’s a huge disconnect between what she did, what she says, and how she now rationalizes it.

She explicitly called the police to tell them a black man was threatening her life (he wasn’t). If she wasn’t racist, why even mention that he was black? Because she assumed just the existence of a black man was threatening. She did intend to do him harm; telling the police that someone was threatening your life is requesting the authorities to step in and question and detain and possibly arrest them. That’s doing harm, no question. Using the color of his skin to feed the stereotype of dangerous black people is harming their community.

That’s just as racist and harmful as what Carolyn Bryant did. It’s curious to see how stupidly she denies it.


  1. rabbitbrush says

    Within hours of this going onto various “social networks,” her employer put her on administrative leave from her fancy-pants financial job; and she surrendered the poor pup to the rescue group from where she got it. That was amazing. Good thing the fellow had his phone camera going, and sent the video to his sister, who posted it on Twitter.

  2. jenorafeuer says

    A lot of people like this seem to think along the following lines:

    (a) Racism is a bad thing
    (b) I am not a bad person
    Therefore, (c) I cannot be racist

    Quite aside from (b) being not only unproven but demonstrably wrong to anybody viewing this from the outside, (c) is a fallacious conclusion anyway.

  3. Artor says

    “Telling the police that someone was threatening your life is requesting the authorities to step in and question and detain and possibly arrest them.”

    As Marcus noted, it’s not credible these days to think that calling the cops on a black man like that is not an attempt to get them straight-up murdered. Amy Cooper is a nasty piece of shit who should be watched closely now that she has revealed her true colors. Animal abuse, attempted murder, false reports, denial of reality, the works. I hope she ends up in jail before she succeeds in getting someone killed, because it’s a good bet she’ll keep trying.

  4. says

    Oh she’s very sorry now her whole life is being upset.
    Let’s be clear, she tried to get that man murdered by the police. She first ran towards him an threw the leash in his face, and then that smug voice when she said she was going to tell the police there was an “African American man threatening her life”. Every reckless and entitled dog owner i ever met combined with being a Karen* of the highest degree.

    *Waiting for the defenders of White Womanhood showing up to tell us that “Karen” is a misogynist slur…

  5. William George says

    @3 jenorafeuer

    Best I can fathom it’s more along the lines of “I didn’t say the N Word or burn a cross, so not it’s racist.”

  6. bcwebb says

    But he was a bird watcher! You can’t get scarier than that. Maybe if he’d been looking for spiders.

  7. imback says

    I’d rather call their behavior racist than calling them a Karen, which seems too oblique.

  8. stroppy says

    There it is, a view of the world that’s so pervasive a part of the background noise of daily life that you don’t think to examine it–and don’t want to because the implications are uncomfortable and pejorative and personally insulting; which means not true because impoliteness is equated with wrongness.

    Seeing the world as a series of anecdotes and bromides cemented together in an authoritative matrix of specious baloney, this is the kind of thinking that won’t die because critiquing it is too tedious for people to bother with.

  9. davidc1 says

    @4 Yeah ,look how she is holding the dog nearly choking it ,all thoughts for it’s welcome out the window .

  10. says

    @Giliell 5
    What’s the benefit of “Karen”? I have trouble seeing the value. I’ve had thoughts about this but haven’t done anything with them yet.

    For me any negative feeling I get about it is that using a name instead of the behavior draws attention from the behavior, like when “Tumblr” became a reference for people behaving a certain way. The behavior as a category doesn’t stick out to me as much as the name. I never did figure out what behavior “Tumblr” referenced.
    And then there’s the splash damage on people named Karen.

    And it’s always awkward because the associated behavior is bad, “Karen” just doesn’t add to it in any useful way that I can see and might be counterproductive.

  11. says

    I guess the benefit of “Karen” is that it does not simply describe one behaviour, but a whole mindset, the way white women weaponise their white womanhood in order to hurt PoC, especially black people, how they’re complicit in white supremacy and happily trade feminism for the patriarchy.
    And when everything is said and done, I’m not going to police black people’s voices, and I doubt that there is a lot of actual splash damage to people called Karen, just like people named Richard are still called Dick.

  12. Allison says

    I agree — what’s the point of using “Karen”? It seems to me that referring to her as hateful, racist, vicious, immoral, a liar and a just plain awful human being does a far better job of describing and (justifiably) condemning her.

    However, it is more work to analyze a miscreant’s behavior and detail precisely what is wrong with their behavior. It’s like the way that people will refer to Trump as a “cheezeburger” or “mentally ill,” neither of which convey much more information than that the speaker doesn’t like him.

    Also, the use of a term like “Karen” supposes that the listener is part of the subculture that shares that interpretation of the name. So it’s also kind of a group bonding activity — using and understanding the word reinforces one’s identity as a member of the group that thinks that way.

  13. says

    @Giliell 14
    Thank you. I can appreciate the unwillingness to criticize something like that. I’ve also refrained from critisizing things because it would require policing the language of someone who’s language usually gets policed. I didn’t realize that “Karen” was used by the black community. That’s useful to know.

  14. says

    @Allison 15
    I can see Giliell’s point though. In the case of “believe women” instead of critisizing people using that (because it’s not explicit about not everyone being believable), I take the responsibility of explaining that it’s about supporting the process. Acting like they are believable in opposition to cultural biases until reasons to believe anything else are relevant.

  15. Bruce Fuentes says

    Non-white people put up with this crap every day. White privilege makes people think they can accuse non-whites of anything if it makes their lives easier. We have a black teen in our household. We have to remind him regularly that he can not act like his white friends. He must behave better and stay farther away from trouble than they do. We know most of his interactions with police will not be pleasant and may be deadly.

  16. unclefrogy says

    with no mobile phones she would have had to just yell real loud of course when there were no such devices that particular interaction would be much less likely to have occurred.
    If black people use the term “Karen” to refer to a certain kind of white women then would it be the same as using the term “charley or chuck” in referring to white men?
    people think they are not racist because they think that their prejudices are true facts about other people. They will remain that way until they see that those judgements of other people are erroneous. I have had many uncomfortable run-ins with that kind of non-thinking. It is most shocking when I find myself doing it.
    uncle frogy

  17. davidc1 says

    Don’t know if it matters ,but a story in the Independent says she is a liberal ,not a trump voting maga hat wearing loon.

  18. says

    I do remember discussion in the past about whether black men should cross the street and otherwise act in a manner to keep from frightening white women. Maybe for the sake of keeping those men safe, but it still seemed pretty racist to me.

  19. unclefrogy says

    the lack of mobile phones never stopped anyone doing that kind of thing but it sure makes it easy
    back further before mobile phones that kind of interaction was less likely not because of any lack of racism but the lack of interaction no one had to make stuff up the cops enforced the de-facto separation willingly
    “boy! what are you doing here?”
    uncle frogy

  20. nomdeplume says

    “I’m not a racist, but” must be the commonest sequence of 5 words used in English.

  21. Alt-X says

    Of course she’s racist. It cracks me up when these people say they aren’t. When have you ever heard someone say they ARE? Doesn’t seem like she got charged with making a fake police report? But a black woman get five years in prison for voting when she didn’t know she couldn’t. So glad I wasn’t born in America, what a hole.

  22. pipefighter says

    I have to say, while I certainly don’t buy into the idea that the whole “Karen” or “Becky” thing is some racist attack on white women, I still wouldn’t want either of those names for the next 5 or 6 years.

  23. says

    The Becky and Karen thing is the same as white women talking about Men. Describing all too common observed behavior of a group.

  24. katahdin says

    I agree the woman is a racist but also think she was frightened, which may account for her behavior with the dog. As in the Philando Castile shooting, https://youtu.be/PEjipYKbOOU, it seems clear to me that the police officer was terrified when he drew his gun and fired. When I suggested this here before in a discussion of the shooting, no one commented. The Castile shooting is an example of the “black-panic defense” as described by Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker . While that officer should obviously not be a policeman, what he did does not seem to be murder. It seems most people on the blog havebiased,un-nuanced views of these situations. Many people are afraid of black people and act accordingly. Many of these incident are not the result of cold-blooded racism, like the cop who shot the black man in the black after stopping him for a traffic violation.

  25. kimzsendi says

    So I see the problem of using Karen (or Becky) as 2-fold

    It alienates actual human beings and in that way causes damage. Using ‘Karen’ or ‘Becky’ as slang prevents women with these names from engaging in the conversation, AT ALL. If the person is actually engaging in the bad behaviour, then you do want them to engage and not automatically tune out because you are using their name as slang for BAD THING. If the woman was actually an ally, then you just screwed the pooch there too. The names ‘Karen’ and ‘Becky’ were picked because they were common. It automatically alienates women (because these are designed to be common women’s names) by design.
    It derails the conversation. Because look at this thread. It’s not about the malicious use of white privilege being wielded as a weapon by a white woman named Amy Cooper. It’s about if it’s OK to use a woman named Karen’s name as an insult. That’s not a the conversation we really need to be having.

    I’m all for using labels to group common problematic behaviour, which is what people are trying to do by using the term ‘Karen’ or ‘Becky’, but we can do it better and honestly in a more descriptive way. Because what is a Becky?

    My perception of it is:
    Becky is someone who is unaware of how her social privilege benefits her so she acts in a manner that is at once entitle, racist, and ignorant

    A Karen is someone who is completely aware of how her social privileged benefits her so she uses that tool and wields it as a weapon.

    Can I throw this out there as a challenge? Can we come up with better labels to describe this all too common occurrence? Would it be wrong to pick something that isn’t gendered? Because I can’t think of a cogent argument for why there is a female version of this but not a male version of it!

  26. katahdin says

    Also cooper’s ambiguous statement “ if you do what you’re doing you won’t like what I’m going to do” probably frightened her. It would many people.

  27. says

    @katahdin 32,35
    So what if they were afraid? That does nothing to change the racism. Fear is behind a lot of racism and that doesn’t excuse it.

    What he said is no excuse for using their identity as a white woman to lie to the police, and act which could have gotten them killed.

  28. John Morales says

    I watched the video, and it seemed to me the woman was working herself into a more and more agitated state. It did not seem to me to be fear, but rather (paradoxically?) the persistently calm demeanour of the bloke she affronted. Has happened to me, too.

    Also, I felt sorry for the dog.

  29. says

    Your phrasing.
    “I agree the woman is a racist but also think she was frightened, which may account for her behavior with the dog.”

    “Also cooper’s ambiguous statement “ if you do what you’re doing you won’t like what I’m going to do” probably frightened her. It would many people.”

    Especially in the first one because she’s racist BUT she’s frightened. It looks like excusing.

  30. katahdin says

    Your phrasing.
    “I agree the woman is a racist but also think she was frightened, which may account for her behavior with the dog.”
    “Also cooper’s ambiguous statement “ if you do what you’re doing you won’t like what I’m going to do” probably frightened her. It would many people.”
    Especially in the first one because she’s racist BUT she’s frightened. It looks like excusing.

    Yes, it does. I should have said “and also think she was frightened” that would have been better but “but” doesn’t have to mean excusing. Could explaining, which is what I intended.

  31. says

    From what I have seen terms like Becky or Karen came from Black women’s experiences in dealing with white women. That shouldn’t be erased.

  32. numerobis says

    katahdin: being afraid of black people solely because they’re black is … wait for it … racism!

    If you kill someone out of fear, you’re murdering someone. You might get away with second degree rather than first. You might, if you can convince a jury they were actually a threat, get away with calling it self defence.

    Racist fear is completely normalized in the US, the messaging is everywhere. I only spent my early adult years in the US but I still managed to soak in the concept that I should be very afraid of black people who are doing that terrifying thing of existing in public. It took me a couple years back in Canada before I unlearned that programming. It’s not like we aren’t racist up here (and we still have some police murders, though at a substantially reduced rate). We just don’t spend nearly so much time being utterly terrified of others just because of their skin colour.

  33. numerobis says

    “what he did does not seem to be murder”
    “Many of these incident are not the result of cold-blooded racism”
    is what makes me think you don’t.

  34. says

    @katahdin 42
    Explaining what though? What’s the intended effect?
    The very juxtaposition without more looks sympathetic. I’ve seen people use white people’s fear to excuse racism often enough for it to be worth questioning.

  35. says

    This thread is a wonderful example of “Watch Whiteness Work”, because a hell lot of you are way more keen on discussing whether “Karen” or “Becky” is bad than the fact that they are complicit in White Supremacy and get black people killed. In a thread about a white woman using her white tears to punish a black man by potentially getting him killed, you are much more concerned with white women’s feelings than with black people’s lives.
    It’s that fucking combination of white supremacy and patriarchy under which the Karens thrive: They are seen as harmless, at best mistaken (oh, the poor lady was afraid) and in need of your protection. Their poor feelings must be centred in each and every discussion, their victims are asked to consider the effect on them first before they’re allowed to speak.
    Folks, I’m a white woman. A cis white middle class woman who could very well be a Karen. I’m pretty sure I used to be a Becky 20 years ago. And no, listening to black people talk about “white women” isn’t a very comfortable thing, but there sure were some ugly truths I needed to hear and reflect on. One of those ugly truths is that you cannot talk about race without making white people uncomfortable. When I hear black people talk about white women or a “Karen” I damn well check whether they could be talking about me. If I come to the hopefully right conclusion that they don’t I sigh with relief and keep my mouth shut. If I come to the conclusion that this could be me, I still keep my mouth shut and try to change.
    And now please ask yourselves: Would you jump into a discussion about religious people trying to harm folks by going on about how we must not hurt their feelings? Do you consider “not all men” to be a valid argument (scratch that, some of you probably do)? If the answer is no, then ask yourself what it is about Amy Cooper and her likes that makes you want to talk about their feelings so badly.

  36. says


    I agree the woman is a racist but also think she was frightened, which may account for her behavior with the dog.

    Did we watch the same video? Because in the one I watched she aggressively came towards Mr. Cooper, who stood absolutely still, then said with the smuggest of voices “I’m going to tell the police there’s an African American man threatening my life” and then subsequently escalated her stick when the operator on 911 didn’t react appropriately in her opinion.
    As for the dog: they pick up fear, but also rage. And the poor puppy was being strangled by his loving owner who couldn’t be bothered to use a leash. That dog was afraid, but not of Mr. Cooper.
    BTW, if a complete stranger can call your dog and lure it away with a treat, your dog cannot be off leash.

  37. John Morales says


    Folks, I’m a white woman.

    You sure are keen on lecturing others about racism, though.

    Do you consider “not all men” to be a valid argument (scratch that, some of you probably do)?

    Yup. Same as “not all women”, though that’s distaff.

    This thread is a wonderful example of “Watch Whiteness Work” […]


    Not all whites, clearly.

  38. unclefrogy says

    if that woman was in a right to carry state would her fear be a mitigating factor if in stead of a phone she pulled out her gun and shot that “black man” down? if it was a white man whom she shoot dead?
    fear is an irrational response it is not a logical conclusion.
    armed police are trained to act in dangerous situations in a smart way to use their intelligence and not act emotionally to do so is a failure and there should be consequences especially when their action cause injury and death.
    uncle frogy

  39. says

    You sure are keen on lecturing others about racism, though.

    Well, just stop being so keen on excusing it and we could both shut up.

  40. Bruce Fuentes says


    Well said. I am always amazed how privileged white people manipulate the conversations about race in order to keep from having their tender feelings hurt. I am a white man of hispanic descent. I have a black male teenager that lives in my house. He is a family member. I am sick and tired of the “she felt threatened because a black man said something to her” defense. Fuck her. She was a racist willing to have a black man get hurt or killed because he had the audacity to question her and her actions. Full stop.
    I would love to have some of these privileged white people live in a situation where they worry every day that their child may have an innocent interaction with the police that turns deadly. Or worrying about when the next racist comment, action or assault is coming from. Until that privilege is acknowledge black lives do not matter for a lot of people. I will not be holding my breath waiting for this acknowledgement.

  41. ck, the Irate Lump says

    The only critique I have for the rise in popular use of “Karen” is that it lets white men off the hook for variations of the same damn behaviour. This is not about “middle class white women using their voice”. This is about people using their power to wield control over (and hurt) those they consider lesser than themselves. This behaviour is unacceptable when someone calls the police to arrest (or potentially kill) a black man over nothing, but it’s also unacceptable when doing something less immediately harmful like demanding someone be fired over a minor problem.

  42. Saad says

    John Morales, #51

    You sure are keen on lecturing others about racism, though.

    What’s wrong with a white person lecturing white people about racism?

  43. John Morales says

    Saad, what makes you think I indicated there was something wrong with it?

    Thing is that, given she simultaneously wrote about “a wonderful example of “Watch Whiteness Work””, it did amuse me.

    (Note that she did not dispute that, she merely retorted that I make her do it)

  44. says

    John, I don’t have to dispute everything you say for it to be Bullshit. Seriously, you seem to be very occupied with whatever I say across blogs, but I can assure you, the opposite is far from true.
    This lady has got a job, a family and even hobbies, there’s not too much time for spending on people like you who seem to get a lot of joy out of not contributing anything productive to any debate but doing so loudly and frequently.

  45. says

    ck, the Irate Lump,
    I’ve long been irritated about how white women didn’t get criticized for acting the same way white men do. It’s about time “Karen” and “Becky” catch hell for the way they act towards people of color.
    You never wanted to get my mom talking about how white women act.