Entry 59: Dear Allies, What can you learn from #AmyCooper?


Dear Allies,

What can you learn from #AmyCooper?

While watching the video of white #AmyCooper calling the police on Black #ChristianCooper, who did you relate to in the scenario?   Did you feel an urge to protect Amy or to find explanations for her emotions?   Pay attention to whatever it was you felt, because that is an opening for you to do the **internal** work of anti-racism.  That internal work is a **pre-requisite** to serving as an ally. 

Without doing self-examination, there is a chance you can do more harm to Black people.  All people in the dominant culture have done harm, whether you are aware of it or not.  The question is, are you open to learning about how to reduce the harm?  If yes, keep reading.  If you’re unable to right now, come back and finish reading at another time.

i believe Amy felt scared and threatened.  But why did she initially feel threatened and why did she become increasingly more distressed, when Christian did not move any closer to her throughout the time she was on the phone?  “There is a man, African American, he has a bike helmet.  He is recording me and threatening me and my dog….  [under more duress] I’m being threatened in the Ramble! Please send a cop immediately!”  

As a woman in a male dominated society, it is very possible that she may have had an experience where she, or someone she knew, was physically harmed by a man.  That could certainly trigger a threat response (fight, flight, freeze) in Amy.

But she also mentioned that the man threatening her was African American.  That piece of information was unnecessary and gives us a clue into her subconscious.  

i think somewhere in her subconscious, she has associations of Black men harming white women.  Those associations are planted throughout our TV shows and movies, news, and history books.  This is her #unconsciousbias playing out.  With that unconscious conditioning, her stress reaction is not surprising. 

So, what could help Amy bring the unconscious into consciousness?  Maybe she could read the history of #EmmettTill, a 14-year old Black boy who was accused of grabbing and menacing 21-year old Carolyn Bryant, a white grocery store worker in 1955.  Carolyn’s husband and brother-in-law kidnapped Emmett, then beat him and drowned him in a river.  When he was found, his face was unrecognizable.  An all-white jury found them not guilty.  Ten years later, the men publicly admitted they committed the murder.  Decades later, the woman admitted to exaggerating the claims. 

Amy’s unexamined bias turned itself into a weapon, as she played the role of a white damsel in distress.  White men also play a role in that narrative – to protect and avenge the honor of ‘their’ white women- just as Carolyn’s family did when justifying to themselves that they could murder a 14-year old child in 1955. 

Let’s play out the scenario with Amy and Christian: imagine the police show up.  Imagine they are white. Imagine they see a damsel in distress, and their own unexamined bias triggers them to action.  Amy’s #weaponizedwhiteness could have caused harm or death to a Black man who was birdwatching in broad daylight.  I am utterly grateful this showdown did not occur that day.   

I believe most of us don’t want to cause harm.  But it can happen, unless we are willing to make the unconscious conscious by learning the history, and reflecting on our reactions.  This can help override #unexaminedbias.

If you want more on #weaponizingwhiteness, watch Episode 1 of #WhenTheySeeUs, directed by #AvaDuvernay on #Netflix.  Reflect on how #LindaFairstein weaponizes her position of power in this true story (that also occurred in Central Park).

If you want a brave space to examine your unconscious, DM me.  I can help you become a #consciouswhiteally.

With fierce love,