Christian Cooper, the black man who recorded a white woman calling police on him after he asked her to put her dog on a leash in New York City’s Central Park, says he would rather talk about the bigger issue of racism at hand than continue to focus on Amy Cooper.
“It’s not really about her and her poor judgment in a snap second,” Cooper said on ABC’s “The View” Thursday. “It’s about the underlying current of racism and racist perception that has been going on for centuries and that permeates the city and this county that she tapped into, and so that’s what we really have to address.”
Cooper, a former editor for Marvel Comics, was birdwatching Monday in the Ramble, a wooded area of Central Park, when he noticed a woman with a dog off its leash, which is against policy in that part of the park. He later said that unleashed dogs have been a longstanding issue in the Ramble, where he often asks owners to leash their dogs to preserve the area’s environment and wildlife.
Cooper asked the woman to leash her dog, and when she refused Cooper started to film in an effort to document the rule-breaking.
In the video, the woman who has identified herself as Amy Cooper (no relation to Christian) asks him to stop filming, pulls out her phone and says she’s going to call police and “tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” Then she dials and makes a desperate plea: “I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble. Please send the cops immediately!”
The video of the incident, which Cooper’s sister Melody shared on Twitter, went viral. Amy Cooper was subsequently fired from her job at investment management company Franklin Templeton, and she “voluntarily surrendered” her dog to the shelter she had adopted it from a few years ago, according to the shelter.
And on Thursday elected officials called on the New York City Police Department to launch a criminal probe into Amy Cooper. The New York City Commission on Human Rights is already investigating the case.
Cooper told NBC News on Tuesday that he kept filming because he didn’t want to “dehumanize” himself by giving in to what he considered an attempt at “racial intimidation,” a point he reiterated Thursday on “The View.”
“I really kind of decided consciously I’m not going to participate in my own dehumanization. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing,” Cooper said Thursday. “But what she’s going through makes me uncomfortable.”
“I don’t know if I’m comfortable with defining someone by a couple of seconds of what they’ve done,” he said.
“There’s no excusing that it was a racist act, but does that define her entire life? Only she can tell us by what she does going forward and what she did in the past.”
He added that reports of Amy Cooper getting death threats is “abhorrent.”
Amy Cooper issued a public apology Tuesday. “I want to apologize to Chris Cooper for my actions when I encountered him in Central Park yesterday. I reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions when, in fact, I was the one who was acting inappropriately by not having my dog on a leash,” the apology said. I am well aware of the pain that misassumptions and insensitive statements about race cause and would never have imagined that I would be involved in the type of incident that occurred with Chris.”
Christian Cooper said Thursday he accepts Cooper’s apology, adding, “it’s a first step. I think she’s got to do some reflection on what happened.”
The altercation started as a disagreement between a dog owner and a birdwatcher, he said, but “then she took it to a very dark place, and I think she’s got to sort of examine why and how that happened.”
Melody Cooper said she shared her brother’s video on Twitter to “shine a light” on a dangerous national problem.
“This kind of racism can kill people; it could have killed my brother,” Melody Cooper said. “I just imagine if what happened to Michael Brown or George Floyd happened to him.”