Looking over to the States, these have been a shocking few weeks for POCs, and, as always, black men in particular. It’s nothing isolated to these past few weeks though. Nearly 1000 people are shot dead by the police in the USA, with black people twice as likely to be shot than whites. Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, George Floyd – the list of violence is endless. There is, thankfully, so much happening around George Floyd’s brutal murder at the moment. Some of the conversations are brilliant, some are simply white posturing and saviour complexes, and most will amount to basic social media posting that will vanish into timelines in just a couple of weeks.
I am not going to talk so much about George Floyd here, though the whole situation is of course deeply in my thoughts. I am going to say a little bit about the Central Park birdwatching case with Christian Cooper and his idiot accuser Amy Cooper (who annoyingly shares his surname so it’s all a bit confusing).
Here is a short overview of the incident, and him being interviewed about it, on The View –
There’s so much to unpack here, and I physically can’t even begin to climb the mountain of crap that is spewed by Amy Cooper. I’m not going to waste the time going into how insane this woman is because, to be honest, she’s deeply irrelevant. This is not about her and I don’t want to give her any more attention than she has already received. There is something much more powerful at play here than just her nonsense. And that is simply – the fact that she knew she could.
This woman was in the wrong. As the interview above notes, it was an area kept for bird watchers in which dogs were to be kept on a lead. There was a park, across the way, for her to walk her dog; but, she felt it was unsafe, so she knowingly broke that rule to keep her dog of the lead in the incorrect area. She was wrong, she knew she was wrong, but she didn’t care.
Instead, she knew that if she called the police, and said the words ‘African American’ and ‘threatening’ enough times, that she’d be okay. She knew that if she dipped into those stereotypes, if she used the power of the inherent racism and deep discrimination in her society, against a man who fits said stereotypes, she could get away with it. She didn’t try to argue with him much about why she could break the rules (no doubt another example of privilege) or why Christian Cooper could have been wrong. No. She knew that systemic racism was going to be on her side if she used the cops and made his blackness clear.
In this instance, it was okay, and he survived. But all that is coming to light in these dark times, both in the USA and here, is how deep that racism still lies and lives (Please read this article discussing Britain’s equally despicable track record). The most frightening thing here is not her absolutely ridiculous response, but her knowledge of the extreme racism in her society, and her willingness to use it, even when she was wrong.
As for the discussion they have at the end of the interview above (and my title), there has been some debate about whether her dog being taken away immediately, and her losing her job etc. for this one incident, is not a bit too harsh. (Interestingly here, it seems the owners of the kennel are more able to act against racism than the American political and justice system). I’ve a very simple response to this strange line of thought. It cost her dog and her job, but she was willing to risk his life. She knew that call could have risked this innocent man’s life, and she used that. Therefore, in her accountability, she should at least lose just a fraction of what she was willing to risk. Yes, take her dog, take her job, because she was ready to take a whole lot more than that.
To finish, I just want to make one quick point. Those people going around saying ‘these are strange times we live in’, and putting this all in the lens of Covid-19. These are strange times we live in, but they’ve been strange for a long time, and they’ll be strange for a long while. They will be strange until inherent, systemic racism and discrimination is eradicated completely.
‘If you can only be tall because someone else is on their knees, then you have a serious problem.’ – Toni Morrison