It seems like four years ago that Amy Cooper was gaining national attention for her decision to call the police on Christian Cooper, a Black bird watcher in Central Park. But, time doesn’t exist in quarantine and it was actually just a little over a month ago and on Monday, Amy Cooper was arrested and charged with falsely reporting an incident in the third degree.
In the trial against Amy, prosecutors will have to demonstrate that she truly did not feel threatened and that she had intent to falsely file a report. Based on Christian’s video of the incident, that certainly seems to be the case.
However, Christian told The New York Times that he doesn’t intend on participating in the case against Amy. He cited the non-criminal consequences she has faced and told the NYT that he feels that “she’s already paid a steep price” before asking “that’s not enough of a deterrent to others?”
Christian’s personal decision to not pursue a criminal investigation against Amy has been met with mixed reactions. While some are saying that charges against Amy would be a message to those who try using law enforcement in the same unjust way she did, others believe that charging Amy simply legitimized the idea that jail time is the necessary consequence for all wrongdoings.
amy cooper did something horrible, I believe she is a racist, and I believe she should face consequences for what she did. I do not believe those consequences should be criminal charges, because I do not think this system has the legitimacy or value to address her wrongdoing.
— josie duffy rice (@jduffyrice) July 6, 2020
At first, my personal thought was that Amy should face the legal consequences of her actions. Not only did she commit a crime, but she knew exactly what she was doing when she continually reinforced Christian’s race during her 911 call. Despite this impulse though, we have to ask ourselves why this is our first thought. The movement to defund and abolish the criminal justice system has brought greater attention to the dangers of and the alternatives to incarceration. If we genuinely believe in the positives that alternatives to incarceration have on society and individuals, we have to fight for them across the board.
In many states, it is already a crime to file false police reports, however, there is often little accountability when it comes to calls made with racist intent. The recently proposed CAREN Act (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies) in San Francisco focuses specifically on actions like those taken by Amy Cooper.
Our recent reckoning with the criminal justice system is inherently uncomfortable. It is met with the internal struggle of how we approach individuals who are objectively doing wrong things. Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut solutions in cases like Amy and Christian Coopers (no relation). However, we do have to respect Christian’s decision not to participate in the case.
Image: Melody Cooper
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Another day, another white woman in NYC calling the police on a Black person who was just trying to go about their business. A woman named Svitlana Flom has officially joined the ranks of Amy Cooper and all the other Karens and Beckys who tried to weaponize their white privilege and call the cops because they were offended by a Black person simply existing… and then got virally shamed for it.
On Sunday, Instagram user @_brownsugarbaby uploaded a series of videos in which Flom can be heard on the phone with police, claiming the other woman is “playing the black card”, “attacking” her, and “threatening her kids”.
View this post on Instagram
From 6:15pm – 7:31pm this woman, Svitlana Flom, artdefete felt the need to not only approach me but call the cops MULTIPLE TIMES ON ME!! She was too “Alarmed” that I was sitting “comfortably” in “her neighborhood!” The first call was because she THOUGHT I was smoking in public.. but by the 3rd call, it was bcuz I was “threatening her & her children !!” While giving my description, she exaggerated her story & made it seem like I was the aggressor. “THIS AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN IS ATTACKING ME AND MY CHILDREN!” She had tears that were off & on & she stated things like “She’s pulling the black card!” Then wanted me to walk to the boys w/ her 🤦🏾♀️🤡 I probably could have just walked away!! I probably should have kept my mouth shut right ?! NAHHH!! I couldn’t understand why she was so mad ! Like ummmm first of alllll I pay alllll mine over here Miss Lady !! 🙄 How you come over here just feeling sooooo privileged & soooo comfortable enough to tell me I should leave ?! You’re buggin !! NOT THIS ONE!! She wanted to be a victim soooo bad!! NOT ONE PERSON CAME TO HER AID!! MULTIPLE PPL witnessed the ordeal & just wanted to make sure I was ok! SHARE THESE VIDEOS AS MANY TIMES AS POSSIBLE !! #SvitlanaFlom @maisonvivinyc @huffpost @ariannahuff
In the caption of the post, @_brownsugarbaby says that this went on for over 45 minutes, with Flom calling the police multiple times, “alarmed” that the Black woman had the audacity to sit “comfortably” in what Flom believed to be “her neighborhood”. She explains that the first time Flom called the police, it was because she thought the woman was smoking in public. (Smoking in parks is not legal in NYC and is usually punishable by… a $50 ticket. However, those who may witness someone violating the no-smoking law are encouraged to either inform a Parks Department employee or Park Enforcement Officer, or call 311. In other words, in case there was any doubt, Flom calling the police was reckless and in no way justified.)
After making her initial call in which she thought the woman was smoking, Flom then supposedly upped the ante, claiming the woman was threatening Flom and her children. This, despite the fact that in most of the footage, Flom is nowhere near her children, and her own husband walks away from her. As the woman points out in her video, Svitlana’s husband doesn’t even approach her to ask if she’s okay despite her supposedly being in such extreme distress.
Once the video hit Instagram and Twitter, the internet did their thing and dragged Flom for her dangerous racist actions.
Another day… another Karen using her privilege to call the police on an unmarmed African American woman minding her business getting fresh air in the park. #SvitlanaFlom is her name pic.twitter.com/wVAYu8ymgm
— Bunny (@ButtaNoBiscuits) May 31, 2020
Well another example of damsel in distress theory. The full video is available and for the record this KAREN literally walked herself up to the woman from a DISTANCE meaning more than 3 steps to harass her. Let do work to rid ourselves of people like #SvitlanaFlom https://t.co/DR57PeIe2l
— Danielle Golden (@DanielleGolde1) June 3, 2020
The internet also quickly figured out that Flom is reportedly the co-owner of Maison Vivienne, a French restaurant in NYC, which according to Yelp, is currently closed, though it’s not clear if the closure has anything to do with the incident in the park.
Flom, unsurprisingly, paints a different picture of what went down, telling Page Six that the video was edited “to make me look like a racist”, and that the altercation started because she told the black woman and her friend “they’re not supposed to be smoking “. She claimed the woman “jumped off , ran in my face. She didn’t care I was pregnant, or that I had two little kids.”
To that, all I have to say is:
Images: Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images; @_brownsugarbaby / Instagram; ButtaNoBiscuits, DanielleGolde1 / Twitter; Giphy
In the ongoing hellscape known as reality, it was somehow a perfect encapsulation of 2020 to watch a random entitled white woman upgrade to her Ultimate Karen form by confronting, then attacking a Black man’s polite request with the promise of state-enforced violence. But while we were on the way to another boring episode of blameless white victimhood, something curious happened: consequences.
Let’s be honest: whenever the words “consequences” and “white” are part of the equation in this country, it’s usually a bad result for BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color). For pretty much ever, the costs of racism have been paid out by the victims. At any white whim, our lives could be disrupted, incarcerated or ended — without defense. Our homes, our jobs, our dreams: all of it could disappear in an instant, if it offended or obstructed the interests of white people.
In previous decades, this was the price paid by Emmett Till and the Exonerated Five. And considering the long and recent list of names from Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride to Atatiana Jefferson and George Floyd, not enough of that reality has changed.
It’s in that reality — the one where white discomfort is paid for in Black suffering — that Amy Cooper went viral. In the now ubiquitous video, Cooper escalated a simple dispute about basic decency (following the rules of Central Park) into a dramatic and theatrical performance of fragile white womanhood. Confronted about the lack of leash on her dog by avid birder and Black man, Christian Cooper (no relation), Amy took it into her head that the only appropriate response to this entirely reasonable demand was to act as if he had threatened to assault her and then call the police for her fake danger.
It was a moment of selfish, manipulative cruelty. It was an act of supreme and reflexive entitlement. It was a complete dick move. There was no redeeming value in her actions; nothing defensible or sympathetic. And in a rare move, reality agreed.
In about the time it takes to saturate Twitter feeds on Memorial Day, Amy Cooper had lost her job, her dog, and any shred of dignity. Former dog-walkers identified her; her employer disavowed her; her neighborhood rebuked her. As much as is possible in our divided age, we had consensus about the danger and the damage of Cooper’s actions, and moved to punish her for them. And in doing so, there was a validation of the perspectives and voices of Black people about the reality of our world and the nature of the pressures and threats we face.
In the isolation of pandemic, we have had to face the calculated disregard for Black lives without the distraction of daily life to buffer the pain. Ahmaud Arbery; Breonna Taylor; the same-day murder of George Floyd: these stories illuminated the endangerment that Amy Cooper was happy to invoke in contrast to the trifling frustration of having her entitlement called out. And so, when her punishment came through, there wasn’t a lot of equivocation; there wasn’t a lot of rationalization; there wasn’t a lot of the same terrible excuses we’ve heard a thousand times. Finally, the same racist energy that upends lives and steals futures came right back on the woman who sent it out into the world.
And she did send it. As pointed out across the internet, Amy Cooper knew what history she was invoking when she called 911 and screamed for a cop to come immediately to deal with the African-American man “threatening” her and her dog. She wasn’t thoughtlessly reacting or overcome by fear; she knew the costs of racism — fear, intimidation, exclusion, exploitation and death — and was trying to force Christian Cooper to pay them. She just didn’t expect that it could apply to her.
In the big picture, it’s not wild for her to believe that either. In the same way that BIPOC have largely borne the weight of racism, white people have largely escaped consequences. Depending on the white person, they’ve even flourished. Donald Trump is President of the United States after open and visible support of white supremacists, including hiring them as advisors. In the middle of a pandemic, there’s still no coordinated federal response to the reality that Black and brown citizens are losing their lives at an alarming rate, nor that we are the populations most endangered by sloppy and irresponsible reopening plans.
Culturally, Lana del Rey thinks she can throw shade at Beyoncé, while Colin Kaepernick entered yet another NFL season without a contract, as a guy with white supremacist tattoos celebrated getting drafted. If a well-off white lady in Central Park thinks that doing some racism is going to turn out ok for her, she’s usually right.
In another time, on another day, Amy Cooper could have done the same thing, and Christian Cooper would have had to survive the fallout. That’s how things usually go. That’s how things are for millions of Black people every day. Any given interracial interaction could cost us our whole lives, literally literally.
Before it cost her a living, a pet, and a sense of peace, Amy Cooper was fine with using that existential terror for her own ends. In the viral video, she didn’t react with shame and self-reflection when caught breaking the rules; she got more aggressive and reactionary for being rightly challenged. And she was willing to make Christian Cooper pay for that discomfort with his life.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to. Fortunately, her vindictive desire to ruin his life rebounded to ruin her own. Amy Cooper deserves to bear the costs that she tried to force others to pay, and we deserve to live in a world that makes her. Maybe this is enough to make her reconsider the impulses that led her to think that any of that was ok.
But more importantly, maybe this is enough to make society itself reconsider who should suffer for racism. Because as much as Amy Cooper probably hates her life right now, at least she still has one.
(Images: Shutterstock/ Melody Cooper)
This week in White Women Need to Sit the F*ck Down: Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the cops on Christian Cooper (no relation), a black man who asked her to put her dog on a leash, in an area of Central Park where dogs are required to be leashed.
Karen Amy Cooper was caught on camera, and the video of the incident has gone viral.
Christian Cooper recorded the video and has told news outlets that he began recording after he had asked Amy Cooper to put a leash on her dog. The two were in the Ramble, a designated area of Central park where dogs are required to be leashed so as to not disturb the birds. Christian was enjoying a morning of birdwatching.
In the video, Amy Cooper asks Christian Cooper not to record her, and walks towards him, her dog in one hand and its leash in another. Christian Cooper calmly asks her not to come close to him. Amy Cooper then threatens to call the cops and tell them “an African American man is threatening me.” She then proceeds to make the call, and tells the police that an “African American man” is threatening her and her dog.
Christian Cooper does neither of those things, but instead calmly continues filming while she repeats herself to the cops, each time with more and more feigned panic in her voice. Eventually, she puts the leash on her dog, Christian Cooper thanks her, and appears to walk away as he stops recording.
You can watch the full video, shared by Christian Cooper’s sister, here:
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
After the video went viral, a lot of people were pissed, rightfully so. A white woman threatening to call the cops on a person of color is essentially a death threat since we all know how police tend to handle situations like that. Getting shot by police is a leading cause of death for young black men in America. Historically, white women feigning victimization in encounters with black men (and young boys) have lead to their deaths. Remember Emmett Till?
Amy Cooper weaponized her whiteness — fully aware of its lethal force — against Christian Cooper when she called the police. And all because he *checks notes* asked her to put her dog on a leash.
Both parties spoke to CNN about what happened before the recording. Amy Cooper told reporters that Christian Cooper came out of a bush, screaming at her about the leash. Christian Cooper says he was not screaming and was actually pretty calm.
I mean, seeing as the video shows Amy Cooper losing her ever-loving shit while Christian Cooper just kind of chills, I know who I believe.
After Amy refused to leash her dog, Christian said, “Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.” Then he did what he meant by that, which was take out some dog treats from his pocket and feed them to her dog. Amy Cooper claimed that he threw the treats at her dog, but Christian Cooper denied that.
Christian explained to CNN that in his experience if you feed dog treats to an unleashed dog, the owner gets mad and finally puts a damn leash on the pup.
So, I guess “bird watching” and “feeding dogs treats” can be added to the list of things that white women will call the police on black men for.
Since the video surfaced, Amy Cooper was placed on administrative leave and then later fired by her place of employment, Franklin Templeton.
Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton.
— Franklin Templeton (@FTI_US) May 26, 2020
Amy Cooper told CNN she wanted to publicly apologize and also added, “I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way.” White woman caught on camera doing something racist then claims to not be racist. Groundbreaking.
In his comments to CNN, Christian Cooper said, “I videotaped it because I thought it was important to document things. Unfortunately we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery, where black men are seen as targets. This woman thought she could exploit that to her advantage, and I wasn’t having it.”
In this instance, a white woman is experiencing the consequences of attempting to bring harm to a Black man by using her whiteness as a weapon. That is how this should go. Actions have consequences, and they often suck.
But you know what consequences would have sucked more? If Amy Cooper’s attempts were successful, and the police showed up to the scene with the understanding that a black man was threatening the life of a scared, defenseless white woman. Luckily, the person who actually deserved to suffer the consequences of her actions did in this case.
And, yes, Amy Cooper also mistreated her dog in this video, and has since surrendered it to the shelter she adopted it from. You shouldn’t choke your dog, but first and foremost, you shouldn’t be racist.
Images: Melody Cooper on Twitter