On Monday 25th May 2020, Amy Cooper, a white woman called the police to rescue her from an African American man (Christian Cooper - no relative) who was bird watching in Central park.
He asked her to leash her dog who was thrashing around and disturbing the peace. He began videotaping the encounter as she disregarded the park rules and his request, and this upset Amy. When he refused to stop recording she threatened to call the police. Despite no apparent movement towards her or any threat from Christian she told 911 that she and her dog were being threatened by an African American man and to please send the police immediately.
By calling the police, she showed that she knew the dynamics at play: She, a white woman would be seen as vulnerable and in need of protection and her story would be believed; he, a black man would be seen as menacing and dangerous and his version of the events would be doubted or disregarded.
We see again and again that African Americans who are victims of serious crime, need unimpeachable video evidence to be believed. Sometimes even these are disregarded until there is a huge public outcry.
The video shared by Christian on Facebook and by his sister on Twitter went viral. Amy lost her job, her dog and in her own words, her entire life. It never occurred to her that the consequences of her call to 911 would have been devastating for Christian Cooper.
However the real takeaway from this story was Mr Cooper’s reaction when he heard about Amy’s loss of job and dog- “I’m not excusing racism but I don't know if her life needed to be torn apart.”
Rules don't apply to me
Small things have big consequences
Respond rather than react
Weigh your actions carefully
Sujata Ray is a writer and event specialist at All Lined Up.