Oh, fine, another one of these.
Isn’t it fun how, thanks to the toxic combination of cell phone cameras and social media, a few minutes of what once would have been an isolated moment of bad judgment and rude behavior is now able to metastasize into a life and career-destroying catastrophe? Do you like that new reality? Awfully brutal and unforgiving, isn’t it?
The episode at hand involved the woman in the video above, Amy Cooper. She was walking her cocker spaniel off leash when a bird watcher named Christian Cooper—no relation—told her the unleashed dog violated park rules. When Amy refused to put her dog on a leash, Christian told her he was going to offer her dog a treat because this typically makes owners want to leash their dogs in response. That wasn’t the other Cooper’s response, however. She threatened to call the police and tell them that “an African American man” was threatening her life. She did too, as Christian recorded it all. Later, Christian’s sister, also named Cooper, posted the video, which got 33 million views on Twitter alone, and is now pushing 200 million views on other platforms.
Then, the deluge. Christian appeared on CNN with Don Lemon, where he accused Amy of trying ” to bring death by cop down on [his] head.” She got death threats, which Christian said was wrong, though his accusation would seem to have helped spark them. Amy Cooper, seeing what was coming, told CNN she regretted calling the police, saying,
“It was unacceptable, and words are just words, but I can’t undo what I did. I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man and his family, I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way.”
Unfortunately for Amy, apologies don’t make a dent in the fervor of social media mobs. Some members of this one, after somehow tracking down her dog-walker, contacted the Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue, Inc. where Amy had obtained “Henry” several years ago, and the organization announced on Facebook that she had “voluntarily surrendered” her pet to the organization. “He is safe and in good health,” the group wrote.
Cooper had been a head of insurance portfolio management at Franklin Templeton, but her employer announced that she had been placed on leave while the incident was being investigated. By yesterday afternoon, she had been fired. “Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the company announced.
Now Christian Cooper is having twinges of regret. “It’s a little bit of a frenzy, and I am uncomfortable with that,” he said. “If our goal is to change the underlying factors, I am not sure that this young woman having her life completely torn apart serves that goal.”
He might have considered that before turning the video over to the mob.
Michael Fischer, president of the Central Park Civic Association, decided to pile on—heck, why not?—and issued a statement calling for Amy to be banned from Central Park:
“This disgusting display of intolerance is unacceptable and should never, ever be accepted in the City’s public domain like Central Park.The Central Park Civic Association condemns this behavior and is calling on Mayor de Blasio to impose a lifetime ban on this lady for her deliberate, racial misleading of law enforcement and violating behavioral guidelines set so that all can enjoy our city’s most famous park.”
Let’s all applaud the impeccable virtue of Mr. Fischer, since that’s obviously what he’s after. I’m sure, if we think creatively, we can think of more ways to punish Amy Cooper beyond destroying her reputation, ending her career and taking away her dog. Make her change her name, move out of the country, have plastic surgery, end up pushing a grocery cart full of junk…after all, she was really horrible to a stranger for about two minutes. What else?
- “Proportion” is an ethical value. It appears to be completely absent from this fiasco, on all sides.
- This kind of episode should never be national news. Never. Making it national news is inherently divisive and inflammatory. Naturally, Don Lemon chose to elevate it to national news.
- Amy Cooper is an asshole. I think that is a fair and just assessment. Non-assholes never say, “You have displeased me, African American man, so I will falsely claim you are threatening me, a helpless white woman.” This is signature significance if I ever saw it.
- Is she also a racist? Technically, she was exploiting racism for her benefit. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a racist, but it’s equally despicable.
- Yes, her employers had to fire her once they were brought into the story. Still, I find my mind reaching back to the worst I have ever behaved, and wondering what that might have done to my career and life if it were captured on video and went “viral.” The Golden Rule is relevant here.
- The woman’s treatment of her dog on the video is disturbing. I’m glad she had to surrender it. That kind of dog abuse isn’t flagged often enough.
- No question: Christian Cooper was the victim here. BUT…
1) I have allowed dog-owners who had control of their dogs to continue walking their pets off-leash when there seemed to be no harm in the offing. Christian was within his rights, but also officious. Society often requires loose rules and leniency, not dictators. It is ironic that accounts are calling Amy Cooper the “Karen” in this encounter, but actually the “Karen” was Christian.
2) His claim that she was calling down death-by-cop on his head was inflammatory and irresponsible.