On Monday, the internet erupted with rage after a video surfaced of a white woman named Amy Cooper calling the police on a black man named Christian Cooper (no relation) after he asked her to put her unleashed dog on a leash in an area of Central Park where leashes are required. In the subsequent days, the video went viral, eventually leading to Cooper surrendering her dog to an animal rescue and getting fired from her job at a financial firm.
NBC reports that some New York City officials are encouraging law enforcement to launch a criminal probe into Amy Cooper’s actions, specifically the matter of her falsely reporting to 911 that Christian Cooper was threatening her.
“We could arrest someone for pulling a fire alarm,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said at a news conference Wednesday. “We could surely arrest someone for attempting to destroy and burn down the life of an innocent person.”
I am certainly not one to defend racist white women who weaponize the police against black people, but it’s ahistorical to act as though Amy Cooper’s individual actions are the root of the problem, instead of just a symptom. Racist policing can be traced back to the very beginning of this country—and the origins of its law enforcement system. After all, it’s unlikely that Amy Cooper would have called the police on Christian Cooper in an attempt to intimidate him if not for law enforcement’s extremely well-documented history of lethal violence against black people. And let’s be honest, Amy Cooper assumed that the police would believe her word as a white woman over the word of a black man because that’s what usually happens.
The suggestion by New York City officials that Amy Cooper potentially face criminal charges is no more than a distraction from the unceasing violence black people experience at the hands of the U.S. law enforcement system. Their argument that Cooper was manipulating the law enforcement system for her own purposes would only make sense if police officers weren’t regularly engaging in extremely violent behavior against black people even without the help of the Amy Coopers of the world. On the same day as the incident in Central Park, a black man named George Floyd died in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes, ignoring his cries that he couldn’t breathe. There is no avoiding the fact that the violence black people experience at the hands of the state is not anecdotal and individual, it is systemic and deliberate.