“Central Park Karen”, Restorative Justice, & Why We Must Follow Through On These Cases

Remember Amy Cooper, aka “Central Park Karen”? 

She’s the white woman who called the police on a Black man, Christian Cooper, when he asked her to keep her dog on a leash, in compliance with park rules. During their encounter, she said she was going to call the cops and tell them there was an African American man “threatening her life.”

She knew exactly the power her words held and their potential consequences. 

White people can use 911 as personal security, while Black people are terrified to call for emergency responders even in the most dire of situations. 

Christian Cooper recorded the entire interaction, and social media took it from there. 

Memes were made.

Comment section arguments were had. 

Eventually, the public pressure led to the Manhattan DA pressing charges against her for filing a false police report. Today it was announced that those charges have been dropped after Amy Cooper underwent five weeks of therapy as part of a restorative justice program.  

I’m not mad about this. 

I believe in restorative justice, in reformation rather than punishment. I believe that most people convicted of crimes were never given a fair chance to end up anywhere else. For anyone outside of the white upper class, the systems of the American government were not built to help them succeed. 

It is easy to fall through the cracks, which have revealed themselves to be more like chasms.  

Yet, it hurts to see mercy be bestowed upon one person and not another. 

Anytime the criminal justice system produces a result even close to fair, I am reminded of all the times it didn’t. I think of Kalief Browder, a young Black boy from the Bronx who was held at Rikers without trial for three years, accused of stealing a backpack it was later revealed he did not even take. Forced to spend much of his time in solitary confinement, his mental and physical health deteriorated.

He took his own life soon after being released. 

To be honest, I haven’t thought about “Central Park Karen” or many other cases I advocated for at the time they occurred, in a long time. The justice system moves so slowly while cases of racial injustice and brutality happen so often, it can be hard to see them all through. 

But activism is nothing more than performative if not followed until the very end. We must call for the arrest of racist cops, then make sure they are convicted. We must demand justice for victims of racial violence and police brutality, then make sure that justice is granted. 

We must apply pressure throughout the entire process. 

We must fight until we see the results we deserve.