fb-pixel Skip to main content

‘There’s an African American man threatening my life.’ Amy Cooper knew exactly what she was doing when she criminalized Black skin

Entitled white women bet on the fear of Black men and Black people so they can use the police as a weapon.

Amy Cooper and George Floyd.Composite

Christian Cooper was never going to hurt Amy Cooper. She knows it, too.

But on Monday morning in Central Park, while he was bird-watching and she was letting her dog roam free in violation of park rules, she decided a simple ask to obey the law was a threat.

There’s a certain kind of white person who cannot stand to be challenged — especially by a Black person. To question them, to talk back to them, to even take up space in their proximity, is considered an attack. Even if unconsciously, they believe in the system America is built upon — a system that relies on Black inferiority.


“In this country American means white," Toni Morrison once said. "Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

So when Amy charged Christian and yelled, “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she knew the gravity of her words. Amy, not Christian, was the real danger.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the videos of white women calling the police on Black people, especially Black children, for things as simple as napping, mowing lawns, and selling food. We call these women Karens. We have seen how teachers will call cops on first graders for throwing tantrums only for them to get cuffed with zip ties and traumatized as babies.

All it takes is the slightest offense to warrant punishment in the eyes of some white folk. And they know when they feign fear, especially of a Black man, the odds that the police and vigilantes alike will avenge them are in their favor. Black people made up almost a quarter of victims killed by officers in 2019. We are only 13 percent of the population.

Christian’s great threat to Amy, beyond calling her out, was offering treats to her dog -- the same dog she choked as she frantically yelled and threatened him.


Amy was betting on what happened to Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by a white retired Georgia officer and his son in February. She was counting on the cavalier attitude toward Black life that led to the police killing of Breonna Taylor in March.

On Monday morning in Central Park, Amy Cooper was wielding the kind of weaponry that led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday evening.

Floyd matched the description of a forgery suspect. Forgery. He was not armed. The police statement said he was sitting on a car when approached by officers. Initially, police said he got off the car on his own, but then resisted. Cops claimed they noticed he was in medical distress after they cuffed him and called an ambulance to the scene.

But witness footage shows Floyd cuffed, body face down on the street, with a white cop’s knee casually resting on his neck like a piece of furniture. And they stay in that position for well over five minutes while Floyd is begging for his life, “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. Please, man,” he says. Instantly, we are taken back to the traumatic killing of Eric Garner in 2014.

This time, there were consequences. By Tuesday afternoon, all four officers involved in the death of Floyd were fired and being investigated by the FBI. And, while Amy was not charged with making a false accusation, she lost both her job and her dog.


Before she got fired, Amy turned to CNN to “publicly apologize to everyone,” insisting she’s not a racist and meant no harm.

Except she did. She used Christian Cooper’s race repeatedly in their interaction, knowing the history attached to Blackness in America. She frantically screamed into the phone as if her life were actually in danger. The video shows he is the one who asked her not to come near him. Yet she put on a Broadway show starring Karen for the dispatcher to ensure peak white believability.

We live in a world where it is nothing short of a miracle that Christian survived this encounter with Amy. That’s oppression. What’s harrowing is how shocking it is that Minneapolis police were immediately fired over their involvement in the death of George Floyd. We’ve come to expect no justice at all or a long march to even subtle penalties.

“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please... I can’t breathe,” Floyd grunts from the ground, bearing the officer’s weight atop him. When you watch the video, the cops are unbothered by his pain and negligent when his body goes limp.

They weren’t arrested, though. Like Amy, they were fired. And we are in awe.

Angry white ladies who use their privilege to hurt others are in their feelings over being called out and facing the consequences. Listen, Karen, before you complain about another meme, remember this: You exhale freely.


Black folk? We fight for every breath we take. And when we can’t breathe, this country puts its foot on our necks.

Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.com and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee and on Instagram @abeautifulresistance.