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Race, Disparity and Humanity.

On Monday, the 25th May, Amy Cooper, then Head of Insurance Investment Solutions at Franklin Templeton went for a walk with her dog in Central Park in New York. On that day, Amy bumped into Christian Cooper who was out bird watching in the Park. I believe Amy made three crucial errors – each with far reaching consequences.

Her first error was to leave her dog unleashed in an area of the park where it is illegal to do so; the second was the manner in which she dragged her dog around when confronting Christian; third and most fundamentally she threatened to and subsequently called the police to report Christian placing great emphasis on the fact that he is African American.

Amy broke the law by taking her dog into the bird watching area of the park without a leash. This could have been resolved without any further consequences if she had simply put her dog on its leash or gone to a different area of the park as requested by Christian. Instead, she refused and ended up in a confrontation with him. As a consequence, she ended up with a life ban from Central Park.

We then get to the issue of her treatment of the dog. I found it interesting to read the comments on the video. I found it bemusing to note how many people were focused on the way she treated the dog. Without question, she treated the dog poorly and as a consequence, the dog’s home she got the dog from very swiftly took the dog back when they became aware of the video. People on social media commenting on her treatment of the dog, often seemed unaware of the risk she put Christian under by calling the police, emphasising he’s African American in a very distressed voice.

A lady in my network commented, “OMG….I’m more worried for the poor dog who is being strangled. The guy seems cool. calm, smart and perfectly able to sort this!!” “You probably don’t see colour” someone commented. “Why would I…it’s irrelevant! was her response. I felt compelled to intervene stating, “Colour shouldn’t be relevant, but it totally is. History shows, black men are more harshly judged and she knows it – hence her emphasis and weaponisation of him being African-American. It’s great the situation was recorded, if not it could have been a totally different story”

As a consequence of Amy’s weaponisation of Christian’s blackness, in which she specifically stated, “I’m going to tell them there is an African American man threatening my life.“; her employer, Franklin Templeton conducted an investigation and within 24 hours terminated her employment stating, “Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton.”

Truth be told, I don’t believe Franklin Templeton had much of a choice. With the publicity around the case, they would have been hard-pressed to justify keeping her own without destroying their brand reputation as her racialised behaviour is clearly documented in the video; I suspect with Franklin Templeton she would have gone through some form of Diversity awareness training, and she was in a strategic position from which she probably made decisions affecting people from different backgrounds.

The consequences for Amy didn’t stop here though. Even though she later apologised to Christian and he has accepted her apology; there are many others who have not – she has subsequently received many hate messages and death threats.

Like Christian, I believe this is wrong. However, as if to explain people’s anger with people like Amy often referred to as Karens who unnecessarily call the Police on African Americans, by the very next day a video emerged of the death of another black man, George Floyd who died as a result of a police officer callously kneeling on his neck for at least five minutes. He’s crys that he couldn’t breathe and pleas from members of the public were ignored as the police officer casually continued to kneel on his neck as he turned lifeless.  Then came the demonstrates and riots with people black and white alike fed up and frustrated by the recorded death of another black man in the hands of the police.

How did this come about? The police were called because he was alleged to have presented a store with a fake cheque. He was said to have resisted arrest, though none of the video recordings showed this. Even if he did resist arrest, by the time he was being held down on the ground, he was already in handcuffs.

People that were angry with Am, knew the risk her actions could cause to Christian’s life with the possibility of an outcome such as that of George Floyd. It’s not the first time this has happened. Indeed, there are a fair number of other black people who have been killed in police hands inclusive of Eric Garner who was killed by a chokehold, also crying out that he couldn’t breathe. I recently watched the very distressing video of a black man with his hands up who was attacked by a police dog. He didn’t die, but I suspect in addition to the trauma, his leg may be injured for life.

I’m glad this was not the outcome for Christian Cooper. A number pointed to his education level as a Harvard Graduate. I believe this is by the by. Regardless of education background, he’s human. I sincerely hope that Amy recovers from this situation and is able to come out better for the experience. With the frustrations demonstrated across the streets of American and in other parts of the world; I hope we can all become more aware and come out better. Starting off by recognising the human in one and all; becoming cognisant of the disparities that exist in society and how they impact on different people* ~ not just in the US, but in the whole wide world; finding ways to minimise the disparities and their consequences.

Susan Popoola

Human Value Optimisation Specialist

Leveraging the Value of People to Develop a Mosaic World.

*The Corona Virus Pandemic has also gone a long way to highlight disparities in society with the poorer outcomes for Blacks, Asians and people from minority backgrounds.


White woman who called police on a black man bird-watching in Central Park has been fired:

Unarmed Black People killed by Police:

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