'I can’t see how that addresses the underlying issues': Black bird watcher speaks out about firing of white Central Park dog walker

'Where she went was a racist place. That action was racist. Does that make her a racist? I can’t answer that'

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 27 May 2020 17:47 BST
Man responds after video shows white woman ranting at him in Central Park

The black man who was harassed by a white woman in Central Park said too much of the backlash to the situation has been focused on the woman and not on the underlying issues surrounding their encounter.

Christian Cooper was bird watching in Central Park when he asked Amy Cooper - no relation - to put her dog on a leash, as is required by park rules. The situation escalated and Ms Cooper called the police, falsely suggesting to them that Mr Cooper was posing a threat to her and her dog. During her call, she specified that an "African American man with a bicycle helmet" was recording her and threatening her dog.

Mr Cooper was filming the encounter and shared it on social media, where many users became outraged with Ms Cooper's actions, chalking it up to another instance of a white person calling the police on African Americans without just cause.

"Where she went was a racist place. That action was racist. Does that make her a racist? I can't answer that. Only she can with what she does going forward," Mr Cooper told the New York Daily News. "Maybe she was trying to gain an advantage. She went there, and she needs to reflect on what she did."

The consequences for Ms Cooper came quick. In addition to becoming the object of outrage online, she was also fired from her job as head of investment solutions at Franklin Templeton where she was estimated to be making approximately $170,000 per year.

"Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately," a tweet from the Franklin Templeton Twitter account said. "We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton."

Mr Cooper said he didn't feel that the woman losing her job was a useful tool for addressing the underlying issues at play in the encounter.

"I'm not sure how I feel about [the firing]," Mr Cooper said. "I can't see how that addresses the underlying issues. I think it's important to move beyond this instance and this one individual. Too much focus has been put on her when it really is about the underlying issues that have plagued this city and this country for centuries."

Ms Cooper publicly apologised for her actions and claimed she wasn't a racist but that she was scared.

"I'm not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way," Ms Cooper told CNN. "I think I was just scared. When you're alone in the Ramble, you don't know what's happening. It's not excusable, it's not defensible."

In addition to losing her job, Ms Cooper also received death threats from angry social media users. Mr Cooper said he felt the death threats were counterproductive and wrong.

"I'm very upset she's getting death threats. That's antithetical to the appropriate response," Mr Cooper said. "If you're upset that she put my life in danger by trying to bring the cops down on a black man, then how can you turn around and make a death threat? That makes no sense. It's downright awful."

He said that so long as the woman's apology was genuine and so long as she agrees to keep her dog on a leash while walking in the Ramble in the future, then "we have no issues with each other."

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