Central Park confrontation sends an ugly message

Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the forthcoming book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind,” and of “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN. (CNN)The story of Amy Cooper, the white woman who called the police on an African American man who was bird watching in Central Park and who asked her to leash her dog in accordance with park rules, is about racism, yes. But it’s also about how racism is more than just whites’ hostility toward people of color. Racism is more than a feeling; it’s a system in which white people can and do exploit their own social positions, assumptions about their innocence, and the presumption that they’re telling the truth. At its heart the Amy Cooper story is a one of failed systems: That a black man has to rely on videotaped wrongdoing to be believed — to protect himself from an agitated stranger advancing up on him, and to ultimately see something resembling justice — while white people can feel comfortable summoning law enforcement and bringing the weight of the state down on their chosen target. First, the facts: Both Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper (no relation) were in Central Park’s Ramble, a wooded area, on Monday morning. Christian was birding; Amy was walking her dog. The New York City Parks Department requires that dogs be leashed in the Ramble, a reasonable rule, given that the plantings and wildlife in the area are cultivated and maintained for the public to enjoy. Amy Cooper was flagrantly violating that rule by letting her dog run off-leash; she later told CNN she knew it was against the rules. Christian Cooper asked her to leash her dog — he did this calmly, he said; she said he was yelling at her. Christian Cooper, who the New York Times reported is on the board of the New York City Audubon Society, took a video after their disagreement intensified, and you can hear who is yelling and who is being calm and polite. Amy Cooper is the only one raising her voice. Amy Cooper told a reporter that she was alone in a wooded area when Christian Cooper came out of the bushes, and that she was terrified. She refused to leash the dog, and, according to Christian Cooper’s account on Facebook (where he posted a video of part of their encounter), he told her “Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going
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