On last week's I Saw a Bird, Brentin Mock, a staff writer for CityLab, joined hosts David Ringer and Christine Lin to discuss his recent article on the dangers Black people face in the outdoors. His piece, "The Toxic Intersection of Racism and Public Space," was in response to a video that went viral last week showing a white woman, Amy Cooper, threatening to call the police on Chris Cooper, a Black birder and New York City Audubon board member, when he asked her to follow the laws by leashing her dog in the Ramble area of Central Park.
In the video, the woman, who is of no relation to Chris Cooper, can be seeing growing more hysterical over the phone while emphasizing Cooper's race to the police—a potentially deadly mixture. The moment, which was shared by Chris Cooper's sister on Twitter, spread quickly across the internet while inspiring widespread condemnation of Amy Cooper's racist actions. It also forced important conversations about white privilege and the use of potential police violence as a threat against people of color.
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
In his piece, Mock summarizes the encounter in this way:
"White people can weaponize the police against people who aren’t white, and that power only flows in one direction. The way Amy Cooper reacted in the video shows that she was aware of that power dynamic. All it took was for a white person to send a bat signal — or in Amy Cooper’s case, a racial dog whistle — to make a garden unsafe for a black person. So long as people of color, and black men in particular, are seen as a potential danger, the issue of racial equity in parks and other open and public spaces goes unresolved."
Watch above for more thoughts from Mock. You can also see Audubon's statement on the encounter here, and read the letter David Yarnold, Audubon's president and CEO, sent to staffers here.