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No Clean Slate for Karens!

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eye on the news

No Clean Slate for Karens!

A viral video highlights an inconsistency among left-leaning criminal-justice reformers. May 28, 2020
The Social Order
New York

On Memorial Day, in Central Park, a white woman—derisively dubbed “Karen” before she was doxed as New York City resident Amy Cooper—lost her cool after being confronted by an apparently outraged birdwatcher (a black man) named Christian Cooper (no relation). After threatening Amy Cooper’s dog (by his own admission), and telling her that he would do something “you’re not going to like,” Christian Cooper began to record the visibly distraught dogwalker, who then called the police, emphasizing the race of the man she claimed was harassing her.

Christian Cooper’s video was posted online, and, within hours, a Twitter mob had figured out the then-unknown dogwalker’s name and where she worked. As soon as the information hit the Internet, her employer, Franklin Templeton, where she was a senior portfolio manager, began receiving demands for her termination. Within hours, the company announced her firing on Twitter, stating, “We do not tolerate racism.” The Twitter mob celebrated.

The successful campaign to end Amy Cooper’s career and ruin her reputation reminds us that, when it comes to anything remotely resembling racism, polite society has zero tolerance. This is a world away from the social dynamics that existed in the 1960s, when de jure racial discrimination was commonplace. It’s easy to lose sight of this progress in the fog of insistence that white supremacy still permeates every aspect of American life.

What’s striking is the incongruity of the retributive campaign to cancel Amy Cooper— including calls from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams that she be punished, “at a minimum” with a fine, and a suggestion from Mayor Bill de Blasio that she could be arrested for filing a false police report—with some of the Left’s popular criminal-justice reform causes, which are likely supported by the same people applauding Cooper’s termination. Broad concepts like “second chances,” as well as specific policy initiatives like “Ban the Box” and “Clean Slate,” are built around the idea that society, and, more specifically, employers, should look past the transgressions of even violent criminals. According to an Obama-era EEOC guidance, discrimination in hiring based on an applicant’s criminal record could, at least in some circumstances, even violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. New York City’s Human Rights Law specifically forbids discrimination in employment on the basis of a criminal record. The Clean Slate Initiative’s website boldly proclaims on its homepage that “A criminal record shouldn’t be a life sentence to poverty.”

As a policy matter, good reasons exist to support employment opportunities for released prisoners. But the destruction of Amy Cooper demonstrates how inconsistently the Left pursues the ideal of redemption. After his contributions to a text-message chain that contained unsavory remarks about race came to light, Parkland shooting survivor and conservative activist Kyle Kashuv saw his admission to Harvard University rescinded, to cheers from social-justice activists. Years earlier, however, when Harvard withdrew its acceptance of Michelle Jones—who served 20 years in prison after being convicted of murdering her young son—many on the left came to her defense.

Other elite universities have been plenty willing to educate and employ serious criminals and controversial figures, whose actions were far worse than Amy Cooper’s. Yale Law School accepted convicted armed robber and carjacker Reginald Dwayne Betts, who, after graduating, was admitted to the practice of law in Connecticut. Columbia University didn’t hesitate to hire Kathy Boudin, convicted of felony murder for her role in the infamous 1981 Brinks robbery, which claimed the life of a security guard and two police officers. For many years, the University of Illinois employed Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, whose memoir, according to the Chicago Tribune, included accounts of Ayers’s assistance in multiple bombings of government buildings.

Yet for Amy Cooper—guilty of a comparably minor transgression—no mercy is permitted, and no punishment, short of the destruction of career and reputation, is sufficient. The next time a criminal-justice reformer proclaims his belief in a “clean slate,” be sure to ask: “For whom?”

Photo: Christine McCann/iStock central-park-amy-cooper

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