There it is in the full glow of the starkest of black and white tableaux, a collision of random circumstances with random passersby in the most routine of encounters. In many respects, in the black and white of it all, there is the pure and the profane, the beautiful and the brutalizing, and the piercing natures of reactions and overreactions, the worst of which were so avoidable. There are lessons for us Guyanese.
It is the sad and savaging story, the sorry episode, now making the rounds in the flurries of news reports, analyses, and judgements. The taut details are these: A man and woman have a chance meeting in Central Park, New York. She has an unleashed dog in an area called the Ramble, the man has a camera. The man simply asks her to leash the dog, and from every indication, he was polite and nonthreatening, an exercise in exemplary calm and courtesy. His name is Christian Cooper, and by the rarest of coincidences, her surname is also Cooper, Amy Cooper.
Matters went downhill in a hurry when the man repeatedly called out to the woman to leash the dog and restrain it from invading a protected area. It so happens that Mr. Cooper is an avid birdwatcher, a current member of the board of directors of the prestigious Audubon Society, and a Harvard Graduate to boot, from the class of 1984. He is a study in patience, and Ms. Amy Cooper, who is an investment banker at Franklin Templeton, a formidable entity in its own right, who should have known better, reacted in the worst way imaginable. Perhaps, her reaction is not so unimaginable, when the optics of the situation are contemplated.
Mr. Cooper is African American. Ms. Cooper is Caucasian American. She calls the NYPD to report that she is being threatened by a black man, in empty Central Park of all places. Mr. Cooper is one lucky black man -he is unshackled and uninjured and untroubled, too. He is a better human being, as he has shown some dignity and class when placed in a bad position during the encounter, more of what could have been an ordeal, and what brings out the best in us, and the worst of us.
The black Mr. Cooper does not like where the white Ms. Cooper is currently. She has since lost her job, she has lost more than reputation and pride; she did lose some sense of her humanity. And for that she is already paying the harshest of prices. In the usual passions and pungencies that flow from the energies of social media, the aftermath of this story about a man and a woman over a dog has taken on a frightening dimension. Now there are reports of Ms. Cooper being the subject of death threats. Among those rushing to defend her is Mr. Christian Cooper, the man with a polite plea, and a cellphone camera. Thank God for technology, thank God for restraint and that it is this kind of man, with this type of bearing and conduct.
He does not agree with her firing, overreaction is what he sees. He sees more, such as the white Ms. Cooper must learn and grow and move up spiritually in a world that uses less of her standard and more of that of Mr. Cooper’s. We took it upon ourselves to share this story, because it could mean so much to us here in Guyana, where our confrontational and suspicious narratives need to be changed radically. It is where we need, and desperately, more of the calming and the soothing, even understanding, possibly forgiving (like Christian Cooper) and less of the wounding and the infuriating and deeply disturbing, as in the Ms. Coopers of Guyana’s world.
Though the colours are different, we have them here in Guyana. We, too, must live with them, seek to manage them better, understand them better, and reach out to help them compassionately. It takes a lot of inner strength, the kind that Mr. Cooper manifested, to be patient, to pad the cheek in the face of insult and shame. He rose to the occasion. So, must we here. All of us.
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