As most people know by now, there were two racially charged incidents which took place on Memorial Day, and both of which ended up on YouTube. One was of little relative consequence and one was of great consequence and has since blown up to cause massive protests and riots in some cities. To wit:
- A woman named Amy Cooper made a 911 call in Central Park NY to accuse a black man of threatening her, after he had asked her to leash her dog.
- A police officer in Minneapolis killed a black man named George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes, while his fellow officers did nothing to intervene.
Here is the remarkable thing that both incidents have in common: they perpetrators could see that they were being filmed.
Let me say that again: they could see that they were being filmed. And yet that fact did not restrain their behavior in any way.
Amy Cooper was an investment manager at Franklin Templeton who was walking her rescue dog in Central Park, but not on a leash. A black man who was bird watching in Central Park and who (ironically) shares her last name — Christian Cooper — asked her to leash her dog. This so offended her that she threatened to call the cops on him and then did so, claiming that he was threatening her.
The whole incident was filmed by Mr. Cooper or his sister. The video eventually went viral, the woman was recognized and outed, and Amy Cooper was fired from her job. She is now the poster child for what entitled urban white privilege looks like, and it’s possible that she never recovers from this. (Like, who is going to hire this woman now?)
Amy Cooper is a liberal Democrat who previously donated to the Presidential campaigns of John Kerry, Barack Obama and Pete Buttigieg.1 She later apologized for her behavior. By the time the police showed up in Central Park both Coopers were long gone. No consequential harm was done to the bird-watching Mr. Cooper.
But seriously, this was her response to being asked to leash her dog? By a black man. OMFG!
The Death of George Floyd
In an incident that was remarkably reminiscent of the Eric Garner “I can’t breathe” incident from Staten Island in 2014, a black man (George Floyd) was restrained by a white officer for a potential forged check — even though he was demonstrably not resisting arrest — by a white officer who put his knee on the man’s neck for almost nine minutes.
Two other white officers and an additional officer of Cambodian heritage either assisted in restraining George Floyd or did nothing to help him, even after he became non-responsive. Floyd was arrested for allegedly passing a bad check (clearly not a violent crime). Floyd repeatedly told the officers that he could not breathe. And yet, the officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, and for almost three minutes after he became non-responsive.2
All of this was, of course, being filmed on someone’s cell phone, which the officers in question could clearly see. But that did not restrain their behavior in any way.
In the Aftermath
By now we know that the officer in question is Derek Chauvin, an officer who had 18 complaints filed against him in his 19 year career.3 All four officers have since been fired, and Chauvin has been indicted for third degree murder.4 Since then:
- Protests started to spring up, first in Minneapolis, and eventually in different cities around the country.
- Some (although not many) of these protests turned violent and included looting.
- The conversation has since been hijacked from one about why unarmed black men (and sometimes women) cannot interact safely with the police.
- President Trump has, naturally (for him), fanned the flames by calling the protestors thugs and by demanding (in a phone call with the nations’s Governors) that they “dominate” the protestors.
So right now it’s important to remember that there are a lot of good police officers who don’t mistreat black men, and there are thousands upon thousands of protestors who have voiced their displeasure in completely appropriate ways.
But 52 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King we have made so discouragingly little progress in dealing with the race issue here in the United States.
- One commentator noted that Amy Cooper used the politically correct language that an “African American” man is threatening me, which creates a kind of irony.
- In an irony, it turns out that both George Floyd and Derek Chauvin worked security at a Latin club called El Nuevo Rodeo, although it is not clear that they knew each other.
- It also turns out that Chauvin’s wife is a Cambodian immigrant who for Ms. Minnesota in 2018. Her brother is also a police officer in Saint Paul, but he is not Tou Thao, Chauvin’s partner and the officer who stood by while Chauvin was kneeling on George Floyd.
- Third degree murder is an unusual legal category available only in Florida, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. It’s been defined as the unlawful killing of a human being, when “perpetrated without any design to effect death.”