Woman calls police on a black man in Central Park who asked her to put her dog on a leash

Yet another video of yet another white woman calling the police on yet another black person is making the rounds, and by now we should all be able to sing along to the familiar tune. It's like the worst song ever written but it's played so often you can't get it out of your head.

Intro: White woman ignores a rule everyone is asked to follow.

Verse 1: White woman gets angry when a black person points out that the rule actually does apply to her.

Verse 2: White woman gets aggressive when the black person starts gathering video evidence of her response.

Bridge: White woman demands that the black person stop gathering evidence—or else.

Chorus: White woman calls the police, turns on the waterworks and claims that the black person calmly filming her tirade is, in fact, threatening her life.


This week's video shows Amy Cooper, a white woman who had her dog off-leash in an area of Central Park that required a leash, calling the police on Christian Cooper (no relation), a black birdwatcher who told her she needed to put her dog on a leash. The video is striking, from the man having to repeatedly tell the woman, "Please step away from me" as she approached to the hysteria in her voice as she told the police—repeatedly—that "an African-American man" was threatening her life.

Christian Cooper wrote in a post her shared on Facebook with video of part of the encounter:

"Central Park this morning: This woman's dog is tearing through the plantings in the Ramble.

ME: Ma'am, dogs in the Ramble have to be on the leash at all times. The sign is right there.
HER: The dog runs are closed. He needs his exercise.
ME: All you have to do is take him to the other side of the drive, outside the Ramble, and you can let him run off leash all you want.
HER: It's too dangerous.
ME: Look, if you're going to do what you want, I'm going to do what I want, but you're not going to like it.
HER: What's that?
ME (to the dog): Come here, puppy!
HER: He won't come to you.
ME: We'll see about that...

I pull out the dog treats I carry for just for such intransigence. I didn't even get a chance to toss any treats to the pooch before Karen scrambled to grab the dog.

HER: DON'T YOU TOUCH MY DOG!!!!!

That's when I started video recording with my iPhone, and when her inner Karen fully emerged and took a dark turn..."

There's so much that we could dissect about this story, but it's not like we haven't see this before. Predictably, there has been huge public outcry over the incident. Predictably, Amy Cooper issued an apology, telling CNN, "I'm not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way." Predictably, some white folks have expressed more concerned over the woman's treatment of her dog than they were over her putting a black man's life in danger.

I have no doubt that this woman doesn't think she's racist. Most white folks don't think we are. The only white people who openly acknowledge our own racism are blatant white supremacists and those who recognize that racism is woven into our social DNA. And doing something racist, then immediately saying "I'm not a racist"—as if the identity of being a racist or not is the issue and not the fact that your actions were undeniably racist—is, again, a predictable pattern.

That's going to keep happening until enough white Americans acknowledge that racism lives in all of us. We are citizens of a country founded during the heyday of the transatlantic slave trade, a country whose most celebrated history is completely inseparable from the enslavement of black people, a country whose bloodiest war was fought over whether or not white people had the right to own people based on the color of their skin. We can't change that history, but we have to acknowledge how that foundation—and the centuries of systematic oppression of black people in America that followed—have impacted us and continue to impact us.

Hell, even the fact that this white woman and this black man share the same last name hearkens to the disturbing possibility that they might have historical ties to one another, as it was common for black Americans to take the last names of the people who enslaved them.

I've seen people attempting to defend this woman, saying she simply acted out of fear. But the way she says, "I'm going to tell them that an African-American man is threatening my life," is chilling. It indicates that she knew that telling the police his race would have a specific effect. She used the image of a black man threatening the life of a white woman as a weapon against a man who politely asked her to stop approaching him and who simply wanted her to put her damn dog on a leash, per the park's rules.

What's most telling is the dichotomy between the fear this woman purposely portrayed on her phone call and the actual power she is wielding as she does it. Angry at being called out for breaking the rules and being filmed for her reaction, she used her white woman privilege to make a phone call to the police as if they were her personal customer service line, flipping from aggression to victimhood at the drop of a hat, knowing that her side of the story was more likely to be believed than his—even with video evidence to the contrary being collected in real-time. This is everyday racism in action.

And from all appearances, Christian Cooper just wanted to be able to birdwatch without an unleashed dog mucking things up. He told CNN that he would accept Amy Cooper's apology: "If it's genuine and if she plans on keeping her dog on a leash in the Ramble going forward, then we have no issues with each other." But an apology doesn't go nearly far enough here, in my opinion.

As with all viral videos dealing with racism, I hope we all learn something from seeing this play out. I hope my fellow white Americans are able to see how egregious her behavior was, how the racism that festers beneath the surface of the white American subconscious reared its head to display its power here, how saying "I'm not a racist" is just a string of meaningless words that don't belong in an apology for racist actions. I hope people can see the pattern as predictable at this point—a truth that has been shared by black thought leaders over and over again but keeps falling on deaf ears. I hope people who see all of this seek out anti-racism resources to educate themselves. (This Google doc is a good place to start).

I hope that we realize how well we actually know the song at this point, and get so sick of it that we start singing an entirely new tune.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."