A “Nice” Person Doesn’t Suddenly Become a Racist

People are talking widely about the Amy Cooper incident in New York City. If you haven’t read the stories or seen the video, she had her dog off-leash in a section of Central Park where that isn’t allowed. An African-American man, Christian Cooper (no relation) asked her to keep the dog on a leash. He was looking at birds in the park and a free-roaming dog is an issue for that, not that he needs a reason to request that she obey the law. Her answer was to call the police and tell them there was a black man threatening her.

Christian Cooper has responded with more graciousness than she deserves. Fortunately, he was filming the whole incident. Who knows what would have happened if he hadn’t been. The very next day a man was murdered by Minneapolis Police for the alleged crime of passing a bad check. Christan Cooper has gone public asking people to stop the threats against Amy Cooper, particularly the death threats.

I grew up in a neighborhood that was racially diverse. It wasn’t always that way. I saw what happened when it was integrated. I didn’t like what I saw. I still am friendly with people I grew up with, particularly the family that lived next door to us, who’s male head of household is like a second father to me. Whenever these things happen, I always look at it in terms of what if it was someone I knew?

Amy Cooper didn’t suddenly become a racist the day she called the police. I would be willing to wager she’s never thought herself a racist. I know many people like that. She probably gets along fine with co-workers and acquaintances who are African-American, or at least thinks she does.

This side of her personality didn’t come out because she was having a bad day. It’s always been there. I’ve had plenty of bad days. I never once thought to call the police and lie about someone to get them arrested, much as I’d like to at times (I could just tell the truth about someone, but that’s another post for another time). It’s her expecting a black man to defer to a white woman. It’s something built into her conscious or even sub-conscious that she doesn’t deal with.

I’ve done stupid things, racially. I had a Confederate flag as a window shade back when I was all into Tom Petty and thought that was cool (he’s since renounced what looked like his support for the flag) in my racially-diverse neighborhood. I don’t know if I offended someone or if they just kind of rolled their eyes and said “that’s just Patti.” One time kidding around at work an African-American co-worker talked about her new niece who had a name like Mary. Kidding around, I said “shouldn’t it be Shaniqua or something like that?” I didn’t mean anything by it, but I’d said it. I’m sure she was offended. I didn’t think about it until a while later and then I was upset. Even all these years later, it bothers me that I was so stupid and didn’t see it.

There’s a difference in someone like that and someone who would resort to calling the police and lying that a black man was threatening her. That’s not just a “bad day.” That’s something that is a part of her very soul.

White people tend to think other white people are okay to spout racist stuff around. I’ve been subjected to a lot of it. My favorite was always the comment about black people “knowing their place.” I usually file that stuff away as learning that I don’t want to know that person. If it comes down to “that person is nice except for the racism,” they aren’t really a nice person in my book. I don’t believe that someone who is racist, especially someone able to do what Amy Cooper did, is someone I’d want to call a friend, no matter how “nice” she was otherwise.

People do say and do racist things not realizing it. If confronted and they learn from it, that’s one thing. If they get their back up, that’s quite another. Amy Cooper crossed a line where it wasn’t just saying something stupid – she actively knew she was trying to bring harm to another human being by using his race against him. I can tell right from that she’s not a “good” person in my book and would not want to be friends with her. Was Carolyn Bryant, the woman who lied about Emmett Till and got him lynched an otherwise “nice” person?

I don’t like a lot of the “call out” culture. I see many trivial things that people call-out others on that just plain stupid. I see many posts about this guy is a pedophile or this woman abused her dog, and I think whatever they are showing you is one moment in time, especially when it comes to photos. There’s always two sides and an ex with an axe to grind can always manipulate things. Amy Cooper, though, was clearly recorded lying about an African-American man threatening her. There’s no wiggle room that it was a misunderstanding.

And I don’t believe that “nice” people suddenly become racist because they’re having a bad day.

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2 replies »

  1. Bravo! Well put. Sometimes people will say things they don’t realize are racist. But her words clearly show that she expected Mr. Cooper to defer to her. That wasn’t a misunderstanding of what could be misconstrued as racist. (I deal with that with people who repost mindless stuff about the Chinese and the coronavirus.) She’s a smart woman and clearly knew what she was doing.

    • Exactly. She was using his race and the police as a weapon. She saw her ability as a white woman to do this and did it because “he didn’t know his place”. If I had been her friend up until then I wouldn’t be anymore.

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