A black New York City man who was threatened by a white woman with a phone call to the police after he asked her to leash her dog in Central Park says he feels bad she lost her job after video of the encounter went viral.
“Any of us can make — not necessarily a racist mistake, but a mistake,” Christian Cooper told The New York Times in a new interview. “And to get that kind of tidal wave in such a compressed period of time, it’s got to hurt. It’s got to hurt. ... I’m not excusing the racism. But I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart.”
The viral video, which Christian Cooper posted to his Facebook page shortly after the incident, shows a woman later identified as Amy Cooper (no relation) threatening to call the cops on him.
“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she said.
She followed through, calling police and repeatedly claiming that Christian Cooper was “threatening me and my dog” before she breaking down and pleading for the police to come to the wooded area of the park known as The Ramble.
“I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble,” she said. “Please send the cops immediately!”
She specifically identified Christian Cooper to the emergency dispatcher as an "African-American man."
Once video of the incident was posted on social media, droves of commenters criticized Amy Cooper as another example of a "Karen," a generic term for white women who overreact to not getting their way, often with a racial element in encounters with black people.
The dispute began after Christian Cooper, who was bird-watching in a wooded area of the park, pointed out she hadn't put her dog on a leash as required in that area of Central Park. When she refused to leash the dog, he offered her pet a treat in the hopes that she'd reconsider. But the dispute escalated and he began filming the encounter, which also included her aggressively restraining the dog by the collar as it tried to wriggle free, angering animal advocates.
“She went racial. There are certain dark societal impulses that she, as a white woman facing in a conflict with a black man, that she thought she could marshal to her advantage,” Christian Cooper told the New York Times.
“I don’t know if it was a conscious thing or not. But she did it, and she went there.”
Amy Cooper later issued a public apology.
“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,” she said in a statement.
Christian Cooper told the New York Times that the woman's apology was "a start," but he was not interested in meeting with her or in any sort of face-to-face reconciliation.
Amy Cooper was later fired from her job at the investment firm Franklin Templeton after an internal review, the company announced on Twitter Tuesday. "We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton," the company wrote.
She also gave up custody of the dog to an animal shelter.
In the New York Times interview that mainly reflects on his feelings about the viral video, Christian Cooper also talks about his passion for birding, or birdwatching. Another viral video on Twitter showcased his brief appearance on the Topic series "Birds of North America," where he recounts to host Jason Ward about what makes his hobby fun.
The National Audubon Society issued a statement of support for Christian Cooper following the incident.
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