What Would Be an Appropriate Consequence (Or Punishment) for Someone Like Amy Cooper?

Illustration for article titled What Would Be an Appropriate Consequence (Or Punishment) for Someone Like Amy Cooper?
Screenshot: CBS News

There’s a scene in Gone Baby Gone where Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) is deep in the white hoods of Boston, and he runs into two dopeboys he knows—one Black and one white. After greeting the Black one, he turns to speak to the white one.

Patrick Kenzie: How you been, Chris?

Chris: Better than you.

I think about that reply a lot because it’s just a bad-ass way of telling someone to fuck off. And I’m thinking about it today because I’m imagining Amy Cooper asking someone—anyone—how they’ve been recently, and “better than you” would probably be the best response there too.


In the weeks since Melody Cooper shared the video her brother, Christian, took of a random white woman harassing and threatening to call the police on him at Central Park, Amy Cooper’s life has been trash. She lost her job. Temporarily lost her dog. Reportedly got banned from Central Park—which still makes me laugh. Had her personal business, including a messy-as-all-the-fucks love quadrangle, published by the New York Times. And became the most infamous embodiment of the “Karen”—a status I joked about in a piece I wrote about her in May.


(If I could go back and write this again, I would’ve added “DOCTOR KAREN MANHATTAN.”)

She’s back in the news because she was charged with filing a false police report, a class “A” misdemeanor, but Christian Cooper doesn’t want to cooperate with the police, insisting that “Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on.” And while most of the conversation this week about this case has been focused on his lack of desire to have her face legal consequences, I’m less concerned with how he feels and more interested in what we think should be done with someone like her.

Of course, there’s the historical context of white women weaponizing their whiteness to have “law enforcement” lynch Black people. And while lying on a Black man in 2020 admittedly doesn’t carry the same threat of life-ending consequence as lying on a Black boy in 1955 did, the potential for it is still there. Christian Cooper could’ve been a hashtag for a much worse reason. If a law exists to charge people for making false claims, Amy Cooper should face those consequences.

Or maybe not.

What would a misdemeanor charge do that becoming a social pariah hasn’t done already? The national conversation about the reduction and eventual abolishment of the police also involves imagining and enacting alternative modes of accountability—including ones that don’t waste as much money and resources and bandwidth as some valueless criminal charge would.


There are abolitionist scholars, including Angela Davis and Mariame Kaba, whose work revolves around those questions. Today, though, I’m more curious what you believe is an appropriate consequence for Amy Cooper, because I’m still trying to figure that out myself.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Her sentence doesn’t necessarily have to be prison and a lifetime of shunning, community service and a proportionate probation and fine would be appropriate. Don’t play on 911s phone - it’s for EMERGENCIES.

In another post a question was asked -

if you had god-like powers to issue her any penalty at all, what would be the just and fair sentence for her actions?

And my answer was this: Make her live as a black person for 6 months. She can keep her income level and education and just see how fucking shitty people are no matter what your level of success. Let her feel her heart pound out of her chest when a cop walks past her and makes eye contact even though she hasn’t done anything.