On the morning of May 25, 2020, in Manhattan’s Central Park, Amy Cooper, a white woman, was walking her dog, unleashed, in a part of the park clearly marked otherwise.
Bird watcher Christian Cooper (no relation), a Black man, asked her to leash her dog. She refused, became somewhat hysterical, and soon after called 911 to report that an “African American man … in Central Park … is threatening myself and my dog.”
Luckily for Mr. Cooper, he video recorded the interaction. Not so luckily for Ms. Cooper, the video went viral and she temporarily lost her pet, permanently lost her job and her reputation was left in tatters. Further, she is now facing a criminal charge of filing a false police report.
All this, believe it or not, on the same day, May 25th, that George Floyd was tragically killed in Minneapolis.
Mr. Cooper’s sister was the one who first shared the video on Twitter. She says, “Our parents taught us to move through the world as if we had a right to be there. … (Upon viewing the video) my imagination took me to see him face down on the ground, with police around him, and – this is ironic – in a chokehold, but I didn’t know about George Floyd yet. I just imagined them having him face down in the dirt and killing him that way.”
Mr. Cooper has quite the interesting background. Harvard educated, he grew up loving birds and superheroes. In addition to being a writer and birder, he is also credited with introducing and developing the first gay characters in Marvel Comics and Star Trek.
Soon after the incident in May, he said, “I’m not excusing the racism, but I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart.”
More recently, he wrote in the Washington Post that he prefers this incident with Ms. Cooper be a teachable moment in the ongoing race relations crisis, and that given that she has already lost her employment and reputation, sees no value in proceeding with the criminal charge. “I must err on the side of compassion and choose not to be involved in this prosecution.”
It will be interesting to see how the criminal prosecution of Ms. Cooper plays out. Will the District Attorney continue with the case, given Mr. Cooper’s stance? If so, will Ms. Cooper plead guilty? And if so, what sentence should be imposed on her?
Regardless of the outcome, I find Mr. Cooper to be remarkable, and to be commended for his calm, reflective and graceful nature. We should all be so fortunate to have those qualities in times of crisis.