Central Park Perp Responds Too Fast and Furious
When a white woman called the police on an African-American man who had asked her to leash her dog in New York’s Central Park, she unleashed a torrent of righteous anger. The crisis rapidly brought communications responses from affected parties — maybe too rapid and not thought out enough from the woman herself.
In the now-notorious early-morning incident that the man recorded on his iPhone, the woman, Amy Cooper, told the man, Christian Cooper (yes, they have the same surname), that she would tell the police “there’s an African-American man threatening my life.”
In her increasingly frantic 911 call, she invoked “African-American” twice and told the operator, “I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble” (a section of the park) as she nearly choked her dog. In fact, Christian Cooper had asked Amy Cooper to keep her distance.
Once she leashed the dog, he thanked her and stopped recording (they were both gone when police arrived). Christian Cooper posted the video on his Facebook page at 9:34 a.m. that day, Monday, May 25, and his sister posted it on Twitter. It reportedly had 25 million views within 24 hours.
Especially given that the incident occurred on Memorial Day during a pandemic, it’s notable how fast several parties responded, obviously seeing the gravity.
At 9:38 that night the organization from which Amy Cooper had gotten her pet posted a statement on Facebookthat she had already “voluntarily surrendered the dog,” which was now “safe and in good health.”
Her employer, investment company Franklin Templeton, had a two-sentence statement out on Twitter at 10:43 p.m. that checked all the boxes. Without naming Cooper, Franklin Templeton said it took the matter seriously, opposed racism, was looking into the incident, and had put her on administrative leave. (Less than 16 hours later, it tweetedthat it had fired her.)
Of course, everyone wanted to hear from Cooper herself. While she responded quickly, as far as we can tell she didn’t sit down and thoughtfully compose a statement (at first). Instead, that first night she opened herself up to journalists, beginning, as far as we can tell, with NBC New York.
She apologized but much of what she said was problematic and too focused on herself.
“I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man, his family,” she said. She said she felt threatened and didn’t know what was in treats Christian Cooper had offered the dog. (He carries treats because owners hate when people feed their dogs and that makes them respond by leashing them, he told CNN.)
She was also quoted as apologizing to “everyone who thinks of me in a lower light and I understand why they do.”
Again, too much focus on herself. When you have perpetrated a crisis, especially a racist crisis, you no longer exist. Only your victim exists. She made things worse by telling CNN “I’m not a racist” and her “entire life is being destroyed right now.” Also, referring to Christian Cooper as “that man” was terrible.
On Tuesday, Amy Cooper released a written statement on PRNewswire in which she said she had made false assumptions about Christian Cooper’s behavior and admitted she acted inappropriately. She said she found it threatening when he said to her in the park, “You’re not going to like what I’m going to do next.” Her statement was slightly better in that it was (mostly) addressed to Christian Cooper.
“The police, I think of them as a protection agency,” Amy Cooper said in her original comments to NBC. “And unfortunately, this has caused me to realize that there are so many people in this country that don’t have that luxury.”
This was widely scorned because she clearly used the race card in her 911 call and exhibited the white privilege she said she didn’t know about. As many pointed out, if it weren’t for the video, police may have believed her false accusation and Christian Cooper could have been arrested with dire consequences.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen here.
Photo Credit: Christian Cooper via Facebook
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