Birding is a wonderful way to get out into nature, to get some exercise and to experience wild birds, but there is a very good reason that few African-Americans engage in this activity
The common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is a large blackbird that ranges through much of central and … [+] eastern North America. (Credit: Vladimir Kulikov / CC BY SA 3.0)
Vladimir Kulikov via a Creative Commons license
As a former resident of New York City, I birded Central Park for many years as I walked to work and afterwards as I walked back to my flat. The Ramble was always a highlight; peaceful, serene and often filled with amazing birds if one just sat still long enough to allow them to come to you or to sing.
After my postdoc was completed, I contemplated a terrifying future of what did turn out to be chronic unemployment and underemployment, Central Park saved me, providing near constant access to a “birdie” community and, as always, providing homes to lots of amazing birds for me to watch and to contemplate.
Rules are clearly stated on a sign for accessing The Ramble in Central Park. (Image kindly provided … [+] by David Haskell.)
David George Haskell
But not everyone experiences the joys and the community of birding Central Park in the way I did, as we recently saw in a viral video on Twitter, where an African-American man who was birding The Ramble requested that a white woman put her free-roaming dog on a leash, as Park rules clearly state. When she did not comply, he pulled out some dog treats because dog owners in New York City often will leash their dogs when strangers offer them food.
This video, taken by Christian Cooper, was initially posted to Facebook and then to Twitter by Mr Cooper’s sister, Melody Cooper. Ms Cooper referred to the dog owner as a ‘Karen’, a social media slang term for middle-aged white women who call the police on black people over innocent or harmless incidents.
The video shows a white woman calling the police on her cell phone to report that “an African-American man [is] threatening my l