When I read about Amy Cooper, the woman in Central Park who called the police on a black birder because he'd asked her to leash her out-of-control dog, I was horrified.
But, as a sociolinguist who studies and writes about language and discrimination, I was also struck by the name given to Cooper in several headlines: "Central Park Karen." On Twitter, the birder's sister also referred to her as a "Karen."
There was no confusion about what this meant: It was a label for a white woman who had used her privilege to threaten and try to intimidate a black man by calling the police.
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