On Monday around 8am, a white woman named Amy Cooper was walking her dog unleashed in a protected area of New York City’s Central Park, a wooded space called The Ramble.
Christian Cooper (no relation), a Black man and a bird-watcher, asked Amy to leash her dog. Dogs must be leashed in Central Park from 9am to 9pm, but in the Ramble they must be leashed at all times. Christian later said that he had been worried about the delicate ecosystem of The Ramble and the way in which the dog might affect the birds.
In response to the video, many on social media began to speculate and insist that Amy Cooper was a Trump supporter and a member of the “MAGA” movement.
However, campaign contribution information — with donations to Democrats such as Barack Obama, Pete Buttigieg, and John Kerry — leaked online earlier today appeared to suggest that Amy actually identifies as a liberal. If true, this matters, because in this political era, during this most critical US presidential election, it is necessary that we understand and recognize that white violence transcends party lines and political ideology.
In the video that Christian recorded, Amy can be heard saying, "I'm taking a picture and calling the cops,” as she appears to strangle or roughly handle her dog with the pet’s collar. "I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life."
Amy repeatedly and insistently stresses the term “African American,” giving viewers the impression that his race is significant here, perhaps in terms of how he can expect to be treated by the police. Incidents of police brutality against Black people are not rare, as Amy Cooper must surely be aware of. In fact, just today, news broke that another unidentified Black man has died in Minneapolis, seemingly gasping, “I can’t breathe” as a police officer keeps his knee on the man’s neck.
White violence is not the sole domain of Trump supporters, or open white supremacists. White violence is pervasive, spreading everywhere and tainting everything. And when we overlook liberal white racism, we put ourselves in grave danger, because liberal white people often live closer in proximity to Black folks than their conservative peers. There's a chance the Amy Cooper we see in that viral video may not be the same Amy Cooper whose details were leaked onto social media — but as a New York City resident, she's still statistically much likely to be a Democrat than a Republican, and the conversation about white liberal racism is long overdue.
Many believe that if we just get Donald Trump out of office and replace him with a white liberal or a white moderate, racialized violence will abate in this country. But that’s not necessarily the case. “Moderate” and “liberal” politicians have all aided in such violence becoming the norm as well. Martin Luther King Jr. himself warned of the particular danger of this type of racism. “Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection,” he wrote in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
And that lukewarm acceptance can quickly turn into threats or actual violence, when white people that their supremacy and their spaces are being threatened. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg may well be a Democrat and a self-identified liberal, for instance, but his handling of the killing of Eric Logan by police traumatized the Black community.
Assuming that Amy Cooper is a white conservative Trump supporter desensitizes us to the ways in which even “progressive” white people protect their spaces from Black people. We cannot assume that a liberal or even a progressive political future will save Black people from white fragility and white supremacy and white violence. A long legacy of considering themselves superior doesn’t go away just because someone has a “D” for Democrat behind their name, or on their voter registration.
In a city and a state that skews heavily liberal, there's a good chance Amy Cooper is the ideal liberal on paper. She also threatened to call the police and falsely report “an African American man” was “threatening her life” in a country well-known for allowing fatal police brutality against unarmed, innocent Black people.
But Amy Cooper is not an anomaly. She is, unfortunately, the norm.
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