Our Karen in SoHo

Jan 6, 2021
9:57 AM

You remember the video that went viral on Instagram just after Christmas, showing a young brunette attacking a 14-year-old Black kid in some swanky hotel lobby because she thought he stole her iPhone?

Well, that swanky hotel is the Arlo SoHo hotel, so now they’re calling the woman “SoHo Karen.” And it turns out SoHo Karen is Boricua. She was spotted in a McDonald’s parking lot in Cali over the weekend and just blurted it out to some cameraman. “And I’m also Puerto Rican,” she says, climbing into a black Range Rover—one of the newer smaller ones that don’t look as nice, but still. She has also claimed to be part Italian, Greek, and Vietnamese, so who knows.

Soho Karen was making moves last year out in her native California. Real name Miya Ponsetta, she was arrested twice for DUI, once in May and then again in October. She got into it with the cop, the first time, kicking and screaming and all that. And before the first DUI, she and her mom had already been arrested for public intoxication, after the staff at The Peninsula in Beverly Hills asked them to leave and the queen and her little princess refused. Her mom even kicked a cop, earning herself the added charge of battery on a police officer.

I can’t get over how adamant SoHo Karen was that the Black kid, the son of jazz musician Keyon Harrold, ganked her phone. Guess she had lost it and was looking for it, and when the kid and his dad came out of the hotel elevator, headed for Boxing Day brunch, Karen jumped all over him, accusing him of stealing her phone and removing the case to pass it off as his own. Another video from the security cameras shows her tackling the boy by the waist and trying to bring him to the ground.

Where was hotel security? What if it had been some man attacking some woman? Security would’ve had the two separated from the jump, but it seems they weren’t too concerned about the safety of a black boy.

A few minutes later, an Uber driver comes and returns Karen’s phone—turns out she must’ve left in the car on the way to the hotel.

Karen doesn’t apologize to the kid or nothing. Neither does the hotel staff. And Karen is allowed to leave before police arrive.

She’s been free ever since, though over 100K signatures have been added to a petition to see her arrested. Now officers from the NYPD are flying out to Cali to have a chat with Miya about what happened that Saturday in SoHo, and the word is they’re going to charge her with attempted robbery in the third degree. Mayor Bill de Blasio described what we see in the video as “racism, pure and simple,” but police say they aren’t investigating it as a hate crime.

Didn’t she commit the crime —didn’t she falsely accuse the boy of stealing her phone and then physically attack him— because he’s Black?

Maybe I just have a weak imagination, but I can’t see her accusing some blond surfer dude, or girl, or some old Jewish lady, and then attacking them. No, she was looking for her phone, and when she saw the Black teenager, she figured he must’ve stolen it, as young Black men, according to her bias, tend to do. How else could she be so sure he was a thief, when we know she never saw him take her phone or had any evidence that he did, since her Uber driver brings the thing back a little later.

She accused him, and had the audacity to attack him, a kid, because he is what she thinks a criminal is and looks like—the definition of a crime committed based on racism.

That Karen is actually Miya and Puerto Rican doesn’t change a thing. Nor would her being any kind of Latina, or even Black. Black people can be racist against Black people, can believe the same things about other Black people, especially darker Black people, that Klansmen believe about Black people. We’ve all seen Hotel Rwanda. No racial, ethnic or other identity group is immune to ignorance and bigotry, and in America, racism is in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the people we’re related to, whether distant or close.

There’s a little racism in all of us, a little voice —society’s voice— whispering ugly things about Black and Brown people, even if we happen to be Black or Brown ourselves. Trying to be a good person means not ignoring that voice, but defying it, as we should defy all the stupid and ugly things in this world.

Our Karen Miya is telling reporters that she was the victim and is now fearing for her own safety. Meanwhile, the boy, Keyon, says he’s still rattled from the attack, telling Good Morning America: “I don’t know what would’ve happened if my dad wasn’t there.”

That’s a good question. Or what if that Uber driver never showed up with the phone?

Yet she was the victim?

No way.


Hector Luis Alamo is the Editor and Publisher of ENCLAVE and host of the Remember the Show! podcast. He tweets from @HectorLuisAlamo.