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No, Amy Cooper Calling the Police on a Black Man Wasn't Due to 'Anxiety'

It started with a chance meeting in Central Park. A woman named Amy Cooper had been walking her dog, off-leash, in a part of the park that required dogs to be on a leash. Christian Cooper, no relation, was sitting on a bench nearby watching birds. Mr. Cooper asked Ms. Cooper to leash her dog in accordance with park rules. And that’s when the exchange became racially charged and potentially deadly.

You see, Ms. Cooper is white, and Mr. Cooper is black. When Ms. Cooper decided to vehemently defend her entitlement, her perceived “right” to walk her dog without a leash instead of cooperating with the reasonable request made by Mr. Cooper, she did the thing every Karen does to uphold white supremacy. She weaponized her whiteness against Mr. Cooper.

A video taken by Mr. Cooper shows Ms. Cooper, speaking fast, telling Mr. Cooper, “I’m going to call the police and say an African American man threatened my life.” And then, she does the unthinkable. She does it. She called the police and said just that.

Now, in an attempt to find an explanation for her behavior, arm-chair psychologists on Twitter have decided that based on her actions and mannerisms, she may be “having a manic episode,” or “suffering from a panic attack,” or even run of the mill anxiety, suggesting we should have more compassion for Ms. Cooper because she was anxious or “having a bad day.”

And that brings me to the article I feel compelled to write to the well-meaning white folks who want to try and fit Amy Cooper into a box that makes sense with their worldview.

Breaking news: She’s not “crazy,” she’s a white woman in America.

Before you get defensive and smash that comment button, think about this. Michael Harriot, a contributor at The Root, said in a recent article, “To exist in America is to obey laws written by white supremacists that adhere to a Constitution written by white supremacists that reinforce white supremacy. And unlearning something that has been constantly confirmed by what is literally the most powerful institution in the world is a difficult — if not impossible task.”

Alas, it wasn’t mental illness that caused Golfcart Gail to call police on a black father coaching his son in Ponte Verde, Florida. It wasn’t anxiety that prompted BBQ Becky to phone the cops on a black family having a cookout in Oakland, California. Permit Patty wasn’t getting the vapors when she called police on an 8-year-old black girl in San Francisco (and then lied about it).

It certainly wasn’t a panic disorder that led to the murder of George Floyd this week in Minneapolis or the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in the weeks before in Brunswick, GA. It was white supremacy and racism.

Mappingpoliceviolence.org says, “Police killed 1,099 people in 2019. Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.” When Ms. Cooper said “an African American man threatened my life,” what she meant was, “I can have you killed right now.”

There’s a long and violent history of white women weaponizing their whiteness against black men and boys. When I think of Ms. Cooper, I think of Carolyn Bryant, the 21-year-old white woman who accused 14-year-old Emmitt Till of making a pass at her in 1955. A despicable act that resulted in the boy’s brutal murder.

BBQ Becky, Golfcart Gail, Permit Patty and now Dottie Dog-Choke are all Carolyn Bryant, and their actions remind us what our country really suffers from. In this case, it is not an issue of mental illness. It’s an issue of racism the likes of which mirrors the pre-civil rights era Jim Crowe America.

As a neurodivergent Latinx woman in the United States, it’s offensive to hear someone call this “anxiety.” It stigmatizes people with mental illness, who are statistically more likely to be victims of violence than to commit it. Sarah Flourance, who goes by the handle @BookishFeminist on Twitter said:

“Ok, we’re not doing this. Amy Cooper was NOT having a panic attack. I have panic disorder, and the level of dissociation you experience during panic attacks leaves you without the executive functions to, let’s say, CALL THE COPS. Stop using disability to excuse blatant racism.”

Her tweet includes screenshots of people suggesting that Amy Cooper was having a panic attack, or dealing with anxiety.

No, this isn’t mental illness. Sure, she might have felt anxious about being confronted in the park for not following the rules (in an interview with CNN, Mr. Cooper described the interaction as one full of “conflict and stress”), but the action she subsequently took — to call the police and intentionally say she being threatened by an African American man who was not threatening her — goes beyond anxiety. Her assumption that a black man was threatening her, and the action she then took, was entirely a toxic symptom of systemic racism and structural oppression that many white people choose to ignore on a daily basis, and so it is allowed to remain unchecked.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Without justice, there can be no peace. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who perpetuates it.” That’s a quote I think of every day in this darkest timeline of American history.

Today, it’s Christian Cooper, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Tomorrow, America’s black youth. It ends when white folks and white presenting folks do the work to unpack their privilege. If you’re someone who saw that video and said, “Hey, maybe Amy Cooper was just having a panic attack?” Pull on that thread, it’s a good place to start.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Atlanta, GA. He was killed in Brunswick, GA, and the story has been updated.

Screenshot via CNN