On what was probably one of New York’s quietest Memorial Days, a soft spoken birdwatcher sat in the calmness of The Ramble in Manhattan’s Central Park watching the birds go by … the chirping sounds, the soothing breeze, and the sun struggling to shine through the lush green trees at the peak of New York’s springtime must be exhilarating beyond the billows of a crushing pandemic that looms over the City of New York. America was nearing one hundred thousand deaths from the coronavirus, social distancing was in effect, and the mayor remained uncertain as to when the city can be open for business.
Christian Cooper must have been in a place of tranquility, unfettered by the daunting arrows of quandary that grips a country in crisis and a world plagued by a viral outbreak that brings uncertainty and dread. If but for the moment, birds were his fascination as the solitary Black man sat in the park endued by a spirit of calm. Then came Amy Cooper and her unleashed dog – and racism broke loose.
A simple request to put a leash on her dog – in compliance with the laws that govern the space they jointly occupied – pushed Amy Cooper into a rage and unwrapped her ugly heart of racism and her callous spirit of deception. “I am calling the police. I am going to tell ‘em that an African American man is threatening my life,” she threateningly said to Mr. Cooper. Then she kept her promise and made the call. “There is an African American man. I am in Central Park. He is threatening myself and my dog.”
A leash on a dog is rarely ever the complaint of a Black man in America, so it may have caught Amy Cooper off guard. She may not have imagined a Black man bird watching in Central Park, and for a Black man to tell a White woman to put a leash on a dog must have sliced a bleeding cut to the core of her “White privilege”. On the other hand, she is canny to the fact that a screaming White woman in central Park is revered – and especially if she has her dog with her. Thanks to shelter-in-place and the city’s occupation with this devastating pandemic, we will never know what would have been the fate of Mr. Christian Cooper had the police speedily responded to this crying White woman allegedly “threatened” by a Black man in Central Park.
And the fact that Ms. Cooper’s employer took strong action in firing her while the NYPD failed to arrest her for false police reporting is a solid validation of her “White privilege” status and the double standard that rules our badly broken justice system.
Later that same day in the Powderhorn section of Minneapolis, Minnesota – some 1,200 miles from New York, a Black man had his life squeezed out of him by a murderous Minneapolis police officer while 3 other officers watched. As Americans are numbed by the toll of over one hundred thousand deaths from COVID-19 – a disease that impairs the respiratory system and blocks the breathing airways, Derek Chauvin, an officer of the law, sunk his knee harshly against the neck of George Floyd and held him pinned to the rugged asphalt pavement for eight minutes and 46 seconds until his nose bled, his mouth foamed and his life disappeared. Chauvin decided that Floyd should not get any of the oxygen that God layered within the structure of the atmospheric realm! So for this Black man – who had an unfortunate encounter with a White pro-Trump law enforcer, no face mask could have protected him, no ventilator could have saved his life, and social distancing from these brutal officers was not an option he could exercise.
No human being should have the right to rob another human being of the God-infused gift of breath. The fact that God created oxygen but then returned and breathed His own breath into humans is proof positive that man’s divinely imparted breathing is our most precious gift that no one should have the power to restrict.
These two nationally televised stories on Memorial Day are now inked in my memory – and sadly they are about race and continue to speak to the centuries of injustices perpetrated against Blacks in America and the expanse of this world. Why was this not about a bird lover versus a dog walker? Why could it not have simply been about a woman versus a man, or the police versus a perp? That’s because it’s about an African American man! A Black man – a White woman, a Black “suspect” – a White police officer. These are two cases of two Black men complaining, and the horrific message we are sending is that Black men should not complain.
Watching beautiful creatures fly in a bird sanctuary is a Black man’s privilege – until the White woman shows up with her dog, and asphyxiating a Black man until the life is gone from him is the White man’s right. Whether the complaint is put a leash on your dog or I cannot breathe, their voices are not being heard among America’s noisome pestilences that walketh in this dungeon of racial darkness.
Will Smith recently said, “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” The truth billows from this statement like rushing warm air on a cold day. In this age of smart phone technology, amateur photographers are skillfully capturing some of the ugliness of racism perpetrated against Blacks in America and sadly, this law enforced brutality is mostly directed at Black men. Despite his battered and bruised body, Rodney King would not have been believed absent the video, without Ramsey Orta filming the murder of Eric Garner at the hands of the NPD, the case would have been buried deep somewhere in a NYPD records room, and had the reluctant White photographer not come forward and release the video that shows an ex-police detective and his convict son hunting down and savagely shooting an innocent Ahmaud Arbery while jogging in the neighborhood, that matter would still be lying under the rug in Glynn County’s District Attorney’s office. Can you imagine the thousands of cases across America that are unfilmed? And know that it is for more than 400 years that America has had its knee on Black America’s neck!
The historic reality is that law enforcement in America has been a valiant tool used to facilitate Black oppression and truth suppression. Thus, there is no easy fix to these kinds of murders and the unfair execution of Blacks at the hands of the very one who are sworn to protect. The system is more of a criminal than the suspects, and in fact, these law enforcement suspects are just active members of a corporate and government culture that fosters racial injustice and the global subjugation of African people and the indigenous people of the non-European world.
This approaching post-coronavirus season is the age of restoration for African people and the healing of humanity. Spiritual redemption and the healing of the human heart is on the agenda. This deficit of hope that Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis Mayor, spoke of must give way to the odyssey of hope that Barack Obama asserted. Those who have used brute force to overpower others must now stand down and those who have been suffering the pangs of suppression must now rise up and exert their strength.
I personally observed some of the demonstrations that took place in New York City this weekend and was filled with pride as I travelled along the routes with thousands of demonstrators. Excitingly, most of the people protesting were millennials and the vast majority of them were White. Isn’t it amazing to know that most Whites in America want justice for Black people too? They want police abuse against Black people to end and they want equality with their counterparts.
In the end, it is the system that needs fixing. We can arrest Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas K. Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, but we cannot throw the Minneapolis Police Department in jail; we can fire Amy Cooper, but we cannot fix her perception. We can indict the McMichaels, but can we prosecute the Georgia justice system? We can dismiss the officer who killed Eric Garner, but how can we terminate the NYPD. And yes, we can vote out Donald Trump but how can we sentence Capitol Hill to a federal prison?
All of the perps belong in jail, but it is our minds that we must transform so the system can reform. This troubling season might just be a difficult pregnancy so that we can give birth to a new season of national and global equality that engages our collective efforts. And in this scenario, inactivity is the biggest sin because it is the brutal betrayer of hope.
This is Dennis Dillon … thank you for reading!