In the wake of the encounter between two New Yorkers in Central Park that recently went viral, the man who recorded the video, bird watcher Christian Cooper, is expressing empathy for the woman who many say is a racist.
The video was uploaded to Twitter by Cooper’s sister on Monday, and immediately began to go viral. The incident reportedly took place over the Memorial Day weekend. In the video, Christian asked the woman, who was identified by Twitter sleuths as Amy Cooper (no relation to Christian), to put her dog on a leash, which prompted her to take out her phone and call 9-11.
Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash. pic.twitter.com/3YnzuATsDm
— Melody Cooper (@melodyMcooper) May 25, 2020
“There’s a man, an African-American, he’s recording and threatening me and my dog,” the woman says into her phone. “There is an African-American man in Central Park. He is recording me and threatening myself and my dog.”
The video was covered in numerous news outlets and sparked immense backlash. Within 24 hours of the video hitting the internet, Amy had given up her dog (people accused her of strangling it during the confrontation), publicly apologized, and was fired from her job.
Christian, who is 57 and a Harvard graduate, told The New York Times that he knows the risks of being a black man pursuing a hobby with mostly white faces.
“I am one of the few male African-Americans who birds the Ramble regularly,” he said. “And I have always been aware that if I am crawling around behind a shrub trying to catch a glimpse of that rare bird, holding a metal object in my hands, I will be perceived differently than a white man if police come across that scene.”
But when it came to the retribution carried out against Amy, he says he’s having second thoughts.
“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 added.