If you lost your phone on vacation, would you automatically resort to attacking random strangers? No, anybody with human decency and manners wouldn’t resort to tackling a teenager and accusing him of stealing their stuff. Unlike Miya Ponsetto, the woman now known as “Soho Karen,” most folks would not continue assaulting the boy while his father urges them to consult “Find My iPhone” on another device. As Gayle King put it on the CBS Morning News on Monday, “There are so many layers of wrong in this case, there are no winners here.”
Ponsetto has been charged with two counts of attempted assault, as well as attempted robbery and grand larceny charges. But the 22-year-old from Southern California claimed that going berserk on young Keyon Harrold, Jr. had nothing to do with the fact that the 14-year-old was Black. She told King last week in an interview that she couldn’t be racist, because she was Puerto Rican. King called B.S. on that assertion, as did the teen’s parents, in their own CBS interview, which aired today: “No one has to say the N-word for something to be an act of racism,” Keyon Harrold, Sr. pointed out.
“I’m happy that she’s been arrested, but that’s only the first step in a very big conversation that needs to happen here in America that has to do with racial profiling,” the Grammy-winning trumpeter added. Harrold Sr. also said that if he’d behaved in the way Ponsetto did, he’d be in jail now. “We wouldn’t even be able to have this conversation. As a Black man, every day I walk outside, I have to play the perfect game, almost like throwing a no-hitter, just to be believed.”
Ponsetto’s apologies have been perfunctory and defensive thus far. Speaking with King, her perfunctory remorse amounted to “Yeah, I apologize — can we move on?”
“Listen, I feel like her apology was, you know, as genuine as when she shushed you,” Harrold, Sr. noted, referencing a moment when Ponsetto snapped at the accomplished interviewer. “It said a lot. I have an issue with the idea of entitlement versus character. It’s all been tragically consistent, I’ll just say that,” he told King.
Both of Keyon’s parents were outraged their son had been targeted. “I’m still in shock, Gayle. I work as hard as I possibly can, just to put my son in the best scenarios, to give him a chance to win. To give him a chance to be a whole young man, a whole young boy, Black boy,” Harrold, Sr. said. “We’ve been all over the world, and to be in our beloved New York City and have this happen, I’m appalled.”
Keyon’s mother, Kat Rodriguez, is also an accomplished musician who’s toured with the likes of Beyoncé. In addition to therapy, the teen’s parents are helping him work through the trauma of the assault through music. Keyon recently wrote a song called “Unjustified Times” and recorded it with friends, with him playing drums. But Rodriguez also told King her son is grappling with a lot of grief. She said he keeps asking: why him?
Ponsetto will face justice, but Harrold, Sr. will only allow himself to feel cautiously optimistic. “It’s tough to look at her being arrested for more than what it is, because the person who killed Trayvon Martin is free. The person who blamed Emmett Till is still alive,” he said. “Justice has to do with change.”