Nearly a week after the video of her dispute with several Black young men over a Citi Bike went viral, people have not stopped talking about Sarah Jane Comrie.
The situation with “Citi Bike Karen,” as she has come to be known, has been endlessly debated across social media, and there are opinions on both sides of the issue.
While many are rightfully calling out her hysterical, antagonistic, and demonstrably racist behavior, a very loud and vocal contingent is spewing racist hatred while contorting themselves to try and frame her as the victim in the situation.
It’s really funny the way white people get all up in arms about one of their own being dragged through the media, but they have no issue with it when it’s a Black victim having their past dredged up in the wake of their murder ala Jordan Neely. The hypocrisy is blinding and white.
Adding to the madness is a follow-up article from the New York Post in which they claim to have receipts sent to them by Justin Marino, an employment lawyer defending Sarah Jane Comrie to help her keep her job with NYC Health + Hospitals (NYC H+H).
Marino claims the alleged receipts prove that Comrie rented the bike first and it was immediately put back in the rack one minute later, and then she rented another shortly thereafter.
In the letter, Marino says, “Your story outrageously portrays our client as a racist, who was ‘trying to steal a CitiBike [sic] from a young black man.’ You attempted to gain clicks by focusing on skin color instead of making any attempt to ascertain the facts or comment, in violation of professional norms of journalism. This is shameful.”
Attempting to shame a rag like the Post is certainly a plan, I guess. They aren’t exactly known for their journalistic integrity, but I digress.
Marino goes on to detail how Sarah Jane Comrie worked hard during the pandemic helping patients of “all backgrounds/ethnicities” and that her entire life “has been focused on helping others, irrespective of their background.”
Marino’s assertion is that Sarah Jane Comrie rented the bike on Friday, May 12.
“She went to an available bike, which no individuals were on or touching, mounted it and paid for it via the Citibike app on her phone,” Marino wrote. “She then backed it up after it was released from the docking station.”
“During this time,” he continued, “a group of about five individuals approached her saying that the bike was theirs. One or more individuals in that group physically pushed her bike (with her on it) back into the docking station causing it to re-lock.”
Marino also claims that one of the young Black men was intentionally covering up the QR code for the bike, thereby “preventing her from paying for it again so she could leave” and states that it was during this time that the young man’s arm touched her stomach. He goes on to say that for the entire video five individuals “were telling her to get off the bike and heckling her.”
Marino sent copies of the alleged bike receipts to the Post, but the Post did not publish them.
To do my own due diligence, I reached out to Marino on the listed phone number for his law firm. He answered the call himself.
Marino said he was “brought in to make sure her rights are not violated by her employer and try to set the story straight so she can walk on the streets safely.”
Sarah Jane Comrie has been placed on leave by NYC H+H as they investigate the incident shown in the video.
Marino believes his client has unjustly been labeled a racist because of an “incomplete video.”
“A one-minute clip should never result in what my client has gone through,” he said.
Marino sent me a copy of two alleged receipts, one of which has both the origin or pick up location of the bike as well as the final destination redacted. The first shows a bike was listed as “free unlock” and returned one minute later. The second (for a different bike) shows a bike was rented for approximately 25 minutes.
I asked Marino if the alleged receipts had been corroborated by anyone other than his client and himself. Has Citi Bike verified the alleged receipts? He said they have not, but he claims that included in his evidence is a screenshot from the video of the bike’s number, which corresponds with the bike that is rented on the alleged receipts. The screenshot viewed by both myself and my editor is inconclusive; it is hard to read the numbers on the bike even with the image enlarged.
Marino sent both the alleged receipts and the screenshot to me under the condition that I not publish them, as they could potentially reveal her employment location, the location of her home, as well as when she ends her shift.
In the meantime, I asked Marino why Sarah Jane Comrie never says in the video that she paid for the bike. He said that because it was a stressful situation, it may not have occurred to her to say she paid for the bike and show proof.
That seems odd to me. The young man in the video was adamant that the bike was rented on his account. He kept saying it was, and he even showed his phone to the gentleman who showed up in NYC H+H scrubs to defend Sarah Jane Comrie.
Why didn’t Sarah Jane Comrie ever say in the video that she had already paid for the bike? Why did she not show her proof? Wouldn’t that have been the easiest way to resolve the dispute? Why take the route of screaming for help as if she were under attack.
Marino frames his client as the victim. I asked him if there were plans to pursue anything against the young men in the video.
He told me they hold nothing against the young men.
“People make mistakes,” he said. “I’m sure they are very fine young men, and if I saw them on the street, I would probably shake their hand.”
Marino was adamant throughout our phone call that they do not hold the young men responsible for anything.
And that is also telling. I’ll get into why in a moment.
The new article from the Post was enough to convince racists that Sarah Jane Comrie was in the right. Never mind that there is no actual proof offered in the article. Never mind that none of them have seen the alleged receipts. Never mind that the entire article is based on the word of her attorney.
The new narrative is that Sarah Jane Comrie is the victim.
Here is where media literacy (or the lack thereof) comes into play.
It’s important for everyone to understand that as an employment lawyer who is actively working to help Sarah Jane Comrie keep her position with NYC H+H, it is Marino’s job to cast doubt on the narrative that is currently in the media.
The current narrative is likely playing an active role in how NYC H+H chooses to deal with their employee, Sarah Jane Comrie.
Sarah Jane Comrie is a healthcare provider who deals with patients of all ethnicities. If she is willing to resort to this type of behavior on a public street, what is she doing in the privacy of those medical offices where she has actual power and authority? These are questions that NYC H+H is likely mulling over. These are questions the public has been loudly raising since the video went viral.
It is Justin Marino’s job to make Sarah Jane Comrie appear sympathetic in this situation. He has to work to change the active public narrative because that active public narrative is going to play a big part in whether she remains employed or not.
The fact that they are not actively seeking any type of action against those young men — “one or more of whom” Marino claims “physically pushed her bike (with her on it) back into the docking station causing it to re-lock” — is also interesting.
Marino made a point to spell that out in his statements to both me and the Post, but he then backs all the way down from saying those young men did anything to her.
His language and wording was very careful, and you know why?
Marino doesn’t have to attack those young men. He knows the (white racist) public will do that for him.
By putting this narrative out there, Marino is counting on Twitter doing its thing, and Twitter is in fact doing its thing, so his ploy worked to some degree.
As I type this, my notifications on Twitter are full of people demanding that I apologize to Sarah Jane Comrie and admit that I was wrong.
There are racists actively trying to dox me and members of my family.
There are thousands of people telling me that I am the real racist, and I tried to harm a pregnant woman with my words.
Marino likely knew this would be the result, so in as much as he was very careful in how he spoke about the young Black men in the video, he knew he didn’t have to do the dirty work.
There are enough unintelligent, uninformed, media illiterate people out there chomping at the bit and waiting for a supposed “GOTCHA” moment, and he handed them their fake moment on a platter.
Those people lack critical thinking skills, so it doesn’t seem odd to them that no one else has seen the alleged receipts. It doesn’t seem odd to them that nowhere in that 90-second video did Sarah Jane Comrie tell anyone — not even her colleague who came to her rescue — that she had rented the bike first.
It doesn’t seem odd to them that Marino claims the alleged receipts show the bikes being rented one minute apart even though we can see that a) the video is about 90 seconds long and b) she doesn’t pull her phone out until the end to rent the other available bike.
The math is not mathing, but illiterate, ignorant, uneducated racists don’t care anything about the facts. They only want to call us the real racists for pointing out racist behavior.
And so now I am the villain, and any other Black person who spoke out about this is the villain.
And Sarah Jane Comrie, who appears to be the actual villain in the video, gets to keep her standing as the innocent white damsel in distress.
White people like Sarah Jane Comrie always get the benefit of the doubt, even when video evidence shows that she was dead wrong.
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