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Amy “Central Park Karen” Cooper Is Suing Her Former Employer for Discriminating Against Her as a White Woman

Amy Cooper yanks her dog's leash while calling the police.

One year ago this week, Amy Cooper became known to the world as “Central Park Karen,” thanks to a video showing her needlessly calling the police on a Black birdwatcher who asked her to put her dog on a leash. After the video went viral, Cooper issued an apology in the most passive voice possible, claiming her life was “being destroyed,” which is a funny way to say she was facing consequences for her own actions.

It’s true that Cooper did lose a lot. She was fired from her job, her dog was temporarily taken from her due to the way she appeared to be aggressively yanking it around in the video, and of course, there was that whole becoming-famous-for-your-racism thing. Still, things could have been worse, as that birdwatcher, Christian Cooper (no relation), declined to press charges.

Not content to accept her consequences and let the world forget about her, Cooper is now suing her former employer, investment firm Franklin Templeton, for discriminating against her based on her race and gender.

Cooper claims that Franklin Templeton’s internal investigation ahead of her firing wasn’t comprehensive and that the company judged her on her status as a white woman.

“Franklin Templeton perpetuated and legitimized the story of ‘Karen’ vs. an innocent African American to its perceived advantage, with reckless disregard for the destruction of Plaintiff’s life in the process,” her attorney Matthew Litt writes in the lawsuit, according to the NY Daily NewsThe suit further attempts to project blame onto Christian Cooper by characterizing him as “an overzealous birdwatcher engaged in Central Park’s ongoing feud between birdwatchers and dog owners.”

So not only does Cooper think she is being discriminated against for being a white woman, but she thinks that Franklin Templeton is deliberately going out of their way to cast a Black man in a more favorable light than he deserves—which is not exactly a thing American institutions are known for doing!

In the viral video from Central Park, you can very clearly see Cooper weaponizing her own race and gender as she tells Christian Cooper that she is going to call the police. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she says, knowing full well what it means to include his race in that warning. Her voice on the phone is frantic, as if being attacked, despite the fact that Christian Cooper is nowhere near her.

Obviously, we don’t know the details of Franklin Templeton’s internal investigation, but if an employee displayed such blatant racism in public, captured on video, that seems like pretty clear grounds for dismissal. At the time, the company said they don’t tolerate racism, but I’m guessing they also don’t want to tolerate public embarrassments.

I don’t believe Amy Cooper was fired for being a white woman, but I do believe that she acted the way she did in that park because she has spent her life being told that that was acceptable behavior for white women to exhibit, even and maybe especially those who have been taught to believe they can rest on things like liberal voting records, which Cooper had.

That Amy Cooper is now facing consequences for her behavior is not racism toward her, it is her being held accountable for capitalizing on racist systems.

In short:

A GIF of Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in Parks & Recreation with the caption "It's not that you're white, it's that you're racist."

(via The Daily Beast, image: Christian Cooper)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.