Birding while black

My criticisms of wokeness do not extend to the constant slights that black people in America face throughout their lives, even when they’ve “made it” by having achieved what our country considers the American Dream (AD). The fact is that white people like me don’t know what it’s like to be fearful each time you encounter a police officer, or to be patronized in a variety of ways by well-meaning but non-introspective Wokesters.

And here’s one black man, Walter Kitundu, who was successful by AD standards, and discovered a love of birds when young, turning him into a inveterate birdwatcher.  But while exercising his hobby, he was so beleaguered by suspicious people—many of whom called the cops—that he had to post signs to explain himself. The article and attendant documents were published in a Washington Post article yesterday; you can see it by clicking on the screenshot below

(From the Post): Artist Walter Kitundu holds a sharp-shinned hawk while banding birds with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory in California’s Marin Headlands. (Courtesy of Walter Kitundu)

Kitundu, a musician, has an impeccable resume, including a MacArthur “genius” award (he’s only 46), a performance in Carnegie Hall, and a Wikipedia entry that shows one of the several musical instruments he invented, the phonoharp. Wikipedia describes it like this:

Kitundu is inventor of the “phonoharp“, a stringed instrument incorporating a phonograph. After hearing the instrument, the Kronos Quartet hired Kitundu as their “instrument builder in residence”. In addition to a phonoharp he also built a “phonoharp” for each of the quartet’s members. For the song “Tèw semagn hagèré” on their 2009 album Floodplain, he created new instruments inspired by the begena, an Ethiopian 10-string lyre.

I’m digressing here, but had to show how this combination instrument and vinyl record player works:

Kitundu has been birding since he was 6 or 7, and is interviewed in the article.  He recounts his hazardous birding experiences—hazardous because white folks were suspicious of him:

Q: In 2005, you spent a lot of time following a single hawk, which you named Patch, and you tweeted that your recurring presence resulted in more than a few run-ins with the police. So many, you eventually hung up mock public service announcements [PSA] announcing your presence to the communities you bird in. Can you tell me your thought process and making it?

A: I would actually call it a PSA instead of a mock-PSA, because it was necessary. I needed people to know, in terms of trying to secure my safety as I photographed the birds. I think as a black person, as a person of color in this country, every time you walk out the door, there’s always calculus running in the background about how to present, how to keep yourself safe. It’s a muscle that’s well exercised by people of color in this country. I can’t really think of anything more wholesome than standing under a tree and watching a hummingbird build her nest, but I think if our activities fall outside of the framework of possibility that’s established for us by the white imagination, then we’re at risk.

I didn’t have dog. I didn’t have a partner. I didn’t have a stroller. I didn’t really fit into the generalized idea of who the park was for. And I was black in an affluent neighborhood. And I was being still for long periods of time. I feel like the white people in the park who called the police were owners of limited imaginations that were stunted by racism. Because I think if I had been a white person in the park with my camera, I would have been given credit that I knew something that they didn’t or I must have had a good reason for being there.

I got pulled over by the police from a hummingbird bush once. I got stopped by police on two other occasions walking through the park. And then one person had the audacity to call the police on me within earshot. I could hear him describing me to the police, and I turned around and I said to him, “Can I help you?” And he said, “The police will take care of you.” So after that incident, that’s when I went home and made that sign.

Here’s the sign, which is both funny and sad:

And the full sign:

But it kept happening even with the signs:

It felt much better in the park for a couple of months. And then, after the hawk moved around during migration season and returned the following spring, I returned to the park and the same attitudes and tensions were present.

I would never try to insinuate that people of color should have to announce themselves or justify their presence in any way. Like I said, this is one of the most wholesome things you can do — to step outside and look at nature and to be a part of it and walk through it. And to have that be suspect, I think it’s just like I said, it’s a failure of imagination. And it’s basically racism.

That’s for sure! To call the cops on someone watching birds just because they’re black? What else could that be but racism? Kitundu also has a special license plate for his car to dispel people’s fear:

The article discusses Black Birders Week, and Kitundu finishes by mourning the loss to society of people who don’t get equal opportunity because of the same attitudes that get the cops called on them while doing things that wouldn’t cause any suspicion of they were white.  He has a few things to say about “outreach” as well:

A lot of organizations and institutions talk about outreach and trying to figure out how to increase their numbers and get more people [of color] interested. It really isn’t about that. It’s about addressing the nature of those organizations, not bringing people into a space that is still riddled with the same issues and toxicity. You have to change the space. Because otherwise you’re inviting people to contend with all of those issues.

And if you think about all the people that were pushed out of academia or never entered these fields, because of these pressures. … It is a great loss. A loss to the fields. A loss to those institutions and to the world. We won’t know the knowledge and perspectives that could have shaped the future of those institutions and the people who might now be in positions of leadership if not for the legacy and tenacity of racism in this country. I’m hopeful that if the awakenings people have been claiming to have, due to both Black Birders Week and the larger cultural moment, are sustained, and acted upon, we could see meaningful cultural and structural change.

As he said, birding groups (or other organizations) that do racial “outreach” have to do more than ensure an equality of representation. They have to ensure an equality of opportunity, and in this case one of those opportunities is the right to watch birds without fear of having the cops called on you.

The point I’m making is not that Kitundu is a special case because he’s successful in his career. That success shouldn’t matter. What does matter as he goes about his hobby is his pigmentation, and in that he’s just as liable to get the cops called on him as anybody else who’s black and watching birds.  This is happening over and over again (viz. Amy Cooper, who called the cops on another black birdwatcher in Central Park). It’s time it stopped, and we can all do our part.

Some African-Americans object to white people saying, “I don’t see color,” which they conceive of as patronizing or itself racist. But surely we should not see color—or at least we should ignore it—under any normal-life doings save those involving dialogue about race.  And we should surely not see the color of birdwatchers.

h/t: Gregory

55 Comments

  1. Posted June 6, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I am sooo with you on the last paragraph. It’s a shame that the critical race theory group has hijacked the left into a 180-degree turn on that one. Our shared humanness is relevant in every interaction; in some interactions (such as you mention)the added layer of race is relevant as well.

    https://shakemyheadhollow.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/making-colorblind-cool-again-4-views/

  2. Posted June 6, 2020 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    …I think if our activities fall outside of the framework of possibility that’s established for us by the white imagination, then we’re at risk.

    That must be one of the saddest sentences I’ve ever read, but so true. Sadly, ime, many people don’t like having their imaginations expanded.

  3. jezgrove
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t help but be reminded of this early 1980s TV comedy sketch about a racist police officer. The “SPG” referred to towards the end was the Special Patrol Group, a controversial unit known for its violent behaviour. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BO8EpfyCG2Y

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Chrissake, hard to believe there’re still white folk surprised to find that a brother might have interests besides singin’ and dancin’ and shootin’ hoops.

    As the great Louie Armstrong said when a reporter asked him, upon his return from being the first western musician to tour behind the Iron Curtain, what he thought of the people there: “Cats is cats, man, wherever you go.”

    • Posted June 6, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Oh man, I’m saving that Louis Armstrong quote from my fellow New Orleanian!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 6, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        People shouldn’t be anymore surprised to find a black guy birding than Pops was to find Moscovites with collections of the Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings. 🙂

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Today, it is almost like the whitest neighborhood is the worst. They do not expect to see black people there and when they do, it frightens them.

    If you grew up in a small town where everyone is white, you might think there is no bigotry there. Don’t believe it…it is there. I had not been around any people other than white ones until I went into the service. Suddenly they were all around, I even lived with some. I discovered they were just like everyone else. It was the separation, the not knowing them that was bad. The idea of separate but equal is no good. It is a bogus trick that whites use to play on each other.

  6. Posted June 6, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Caller: There is a black man in my neighborhood looking up into the trees with binoculars and a camera.

    911: We’ll send three squad cars.

  7. rickflick
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    It must be depressing for Kitundu to have to put up with the suspicion. I’m sure his musical creativity is a way to get above the distrust. Wonderful fellow I would like to know.

  8. GBJames
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    sub

  9. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    This guy is awesome!

  10. Historian
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Racism is passed from one generation of white folks to the next. The metaphor that it is in their DNA is apt. Racism goes back to the earliest days of the colonial era (dare I say the magic year of 1619?). In the North in the decades prior to the Civil War, racism was rampant, even though there was a growing anti-slavery sentiment in that region. It is a great historical misunderstanding to believe that if a person was against slavery, he/she was necessarily not a racist. Historians have explored in depth how a person could oppose slavery and still be a racist. Since the Civil War race riots have periodically broken out. The magnitude of racism ebbs and flows, but it is always there.

    It is possible that George Floyd’s death may help to break this chain. Frankly, I don’t think this will happen. If had to bet I would say that once things calm down, the status quo will re-assert itself. But, maybe I’m wrong, we’ll see. My pessimism derives from my understanding of my why racism exists. There are economic explanations for it, but I tend to give predominance to psychological and sociological reasons, similar to those of explaining anti-Semitism. These biases allow people to maintain a sense of dignity and status, even though their lives are apparent failures, or as Trump would say, losers. The classic example is that of the non-slaveholding whites in the pre-Civil War South. No matter how miserable their lives, the presence of slaves gave them a sense of dignity and superiority. The slaveholding elite was able to play on this through divide-and-conquer tactics to maintain their power. Such type tactics are used to this very day by the ruling elites and quite effectively to divide the working class. It seems part of human nature that most people always need someone to hate. It makes them feel good.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 6, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Racism and bigotry in the US seem to come in two (non-mutually-exclusive) varieties: there is a casual, obtuse, learned racism passed on from generation to generation. (I encountered this type of racism and bigotry from time to time in the working-class neighborhood of my youth.) And then there’s a pathological racism and bigotry that arises from some deep-seated psychological malady — think the tiki-torch marchers in Charlottesville.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 6, 2020 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Not sure that those are different “varieties”. Seems to me it is just points on of a range of expression.

        • EdwardM
          Posted June 6, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          Chihuahuas and Great Danes are points on the range of expression of d*g but they can be called d*g varieties as well. There only need be something to distinguish them.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 6, 2020 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

          That’s why I said they’re “non-mutually-exclusive.” And one of the principles of the Hegelian dialectic is that increases in quantity lead to qualitative differences.

          White people of the first sort can be fans of black celebrities, or even have black friends (after a fashion). One of the best explorations of this sort of casual, obtuse, unthinking racism came in the dialogue between Pino and Mookie in Do the Right Thing:

          • EdwardM
            Posted June 6, 2020 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

            An aside – at WEIT I see people whine about phrases or words they hate. I rarely comment because there aren’t many I dislike. But “mutually exclusive” bugs me. Something is either exclusive or it isn’t, right? It can’t really be modified. It’s kind of like being a little bit pregnant.

            Or “very unique”. **shudder**

            Now, back to your regularly scheduled program….

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted June 6, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

              I’m not sure “exclusive” alone captures the gist of what’s meant. Exclusive of what? You can say “exclusive of each other,” but that’s what “mutually” connotes, just more concisely.

              • EdwardM
                Posted June 6, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

                What’s wrong with; “Racism and bigotry in the US seem to come in two (non-exclusive) varieties…”?

          • Nicolaas Stempels
            Posted June 6, 2020 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

            🙂 🙂

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted June 6, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

          My other point is that people can be educated out of the first type of casual racism. The second type of racism, people tend to be miseducated into, often with an assist from the so-called “racial realist” and “scientific racism” crowd.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 6, 2020 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know, Ken. Seems like arm waving and high speculation about your categories to me.

    • EdwardM
      Posted June 6, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it’s passed down, but not like genes; no one is born racist. It must be taught. I agree that Floyd’s death will change little. Real change won’t begin until the last of the Boomers draws breath. It will take breaking the racist inheritance and that begins with those with children. Little by little after we’re gone, good people can take our place.

      • Historian
        Posted June 6, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        It’s a metaphor. It means that just as certain traits are passed down genetically, generation to generation, attitudes (not genetically based) are passed down from generation to generation.

        I realize that it is now in vogue to blame all the nation’s woes on baby boomers. But, there are at least some of us who object to this as we would deny that we have abandoned the ideals of the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War protests.

        • EdwardM
          Posted June 6, 2020 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          Nevertheless, it is Boomers and the remaining elders who are chiefly responsible for the recent mainstreaming of their racist tendencies – Trump’s demographic. Of course there are many Boomers who are not racist, just as there are many of ANY generation, but that does not mitigate those who are. The racism was always there, under cover of a prosperous white middle class and festering , as it always does, in the white underclass. It took the rise of Trump to make it bold enough to show itself again. Or maybe his rise was only possible because of its new boldness.

          I do not believe our culture will change significantly until the next generations arrive.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 6, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        ”Real change won’t begin until the last of the Boomers draws breath.”

        LOL. I remember as a young man being appalled at comments made by my then wife’s grandmother. I thought “Things won’t get better until that generation dies off.” That was 1971. It seems that naive idea live on.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted June 6, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      “No matter how miserable their lives, the presence of slaves gave them a sense of dignity and superiority. ”

      Wow – I can understand that notion – a meaningless association between the accident of residency in an area in which some other entity resides.

  11. Posted June 6, 2020 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    This reminds of something that happened to a nurse practitioner with whom I worked, of Jamaican descent. She was as good a physician as just about any I’ve known, and is certainly a far finer person than I am. Once, when she and her husband were thinking about moving to a nicer house, they were looking at houses in a nice neighborhood, driving in their nice car, but they were pulled over (!) just for being there and looking at the houses that had “For Sale” signs. This wasn’t my first exposure to such cases of “pulled over for being black in America,” but it outraged me especially and made me feel ashamed as well, weirdly enough. She took it in stride, but you could tell it just saddened her. And, of course, there was no way they were ever going to move into THAT neighborhood. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see ANY upscale neighborhood in Florida being much different.

    • Posted June 6, 2020 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      An additional problem is that of whites coming into black neighborhoods and buying up the houses. Although the reason for the whites buying there initially was lower property values, over time the value amazingly goes up and blacks must move elsewhere because they can no longer afford to live there.

      An example is the traditionally black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon’s Albina District. It started out being platted in 1873 in association with railroad construction. By 1883, most of the residents were European immigrants. It was incorporated in 1887 and consolidated into Portland in 1889. After 1910, blacks began to move in and during WWII the area became predominantly, if not exclusively, black. Oregon and, especially Portland, was noted for its’ racism. The Oregoncyclopedia.org indicates that since the late 1980s, the community has been rejuvenating while maintaining diversity. But, as Portland property values have increased since then, whites have bought in Albina.

  12. Jenny Haniver
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    “Racism must be taught.” That usually means conscious, didactic instruction by adults. But what about unconscious associations made by infants and young children based on human beings they see and interact with from birth? “Research clearly shows that children not only recognize race from a very young age, but also develop racial biases by ages three to five that do not necessarily resemble the racial attitudes of adults in their lives.” https://inclusions.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Children-are-Not-Colorblind.pdf.

    The first part of this statement seems to speak to a primal/primate instinct to recognize as familiar beings similar to the child as part of that “group.” I haven’t investigated the second part of the statement but that points to a third (or fourth) conduit for developing a racial/ethnic prejudice at an early age.

    Perhaps it’s the other way around and one must be taught to disregard race and ethnicity.

    • Adam M.
      Posted June 6, 2020 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      I think so. Many experiments have been done in this area, some quite interesting.

      Three-month-old infants notice race, have more interest in the faces of people of their own (family’s?) race, etc. The limbic system in the brain, and other parts, react immediately and unconsciously to the sight of people of other races, increasing stress levels and wariness. It’s not simply race as a kind of binary (e.g. white/black), but in fact differences of very subtle gradation in particular facial and bodily features are detected and reacted to by the brain, almost certainly because they act as proxy measures of genetic relatedness to oneself and as a detector for other groups which likely often served as enemies and competitors.

      (Now, I don’t know whether it’s really relatedness to oneself or if there’s an imprinting period where people observe the features of their immediate family members or what. In our ancestral environment, those should have been pretty much the same thing. This could be settled to some extent by studying cross-racial adoptions of newborns I suppose. But even tadpoles, for example, will supposedly segregate themselves into groups based on their mother, rather than mix with tadpoles from a different mother. The offspring of various female mammals that can have multiple mates in a season (thus producing a mix of full and half siblings) can tell which are their full siblings and which are half siblings, and they cooperate more and fight less with their full siblings, and in adulthood they are less territorial with their full siblings. As mentioned above, even fine gradations can be detected. Bees can detect their kinship relationship quite accurately when bred out to varying different levels of relatedness (e.g. sisters, cousins, second cousins, and so on). Kin detection is both widespread and quite advanced in animals. Even plants can detect their kin.)

      You know the sense that people of other races “all look alike”? It’s a real effect. People tested in a lab make far more mistakes remembering faces of other races, and the number of mistakes increases as the racial difference increases. It seems to be biological. For example, three-to-four-month-old infants can distinguish between a coracial face and the same face morphed to include 30% features from another race, but they don’t seem able to distinguish between another race’s face and the same face morphed to include 30% features from their own race. I.e. they can distinguish “my race” from “not quite my race” but not “other race” from “not quite other race”.

      Three-year-olds, when shown an assortment of faces and asked who they would like to have as friends are overwhelmingly likely (~90%) to choose others of the same race over other criteria. When five-year-olds are given an assortment of random faces and told to make groups they’re far more likely (~70%) to group them by race than sex (~15%) or other criteria.

      In games of trust where people supposedly see photographs of other players’ faces (but which is actually a carefully selected set of face images), the degree of trust and cooperation is closely correlated to the degree of similarity to the player’s own face. When a morphed form of the player’s own face is included in the set – with very similar features – they consistently treat that “player” as the most trustworthy. However, when a face is included that’s very similar to the player’s own face, but altered to have a different skin color, say, there was no increase in trust. I.e. fine-grained kin detection is active among one’s own race, but those who are clearly of other races are all “others”. Brain scans show much greater activity in the fusiform region (involved in making careful analysis) when someone looks at a face of their own race. Brain scans also showed that when people saw coracial faces similar to their own, the reward centers of the brain became more active, while centers related to fear and distrust become more active when seeing other-racial faces or faces unlike one’s own. This happens even when a face is seen only for 30 milliseconds – not long enough to notice consciously.

      Women tend to choose men who look like their fathers and men tend to choose women who look like their mothers, to a statistically significant extent. (This was not a subjective comparison. They carefully measured facial proportions to arrive at an objective measure of similarity.)

      Empathetic pain reactions (i.e. suffering to see another person in pain) are much greater when the suffering person is of the same race.

      When people play a competitive game with somebody of another race – at least certain kinds of competitive games – they show elevated stress levels, constricted arteries, etc. that doesn’t happen when they play the same game with somebody of the same race.

      So my own belief is that that racial identity is biological and instinctual, but like many aspects of biology can be modified by culture. It seems to me that all races except white people have a strong racial identity, and that white people also had a strong racial identity just 60 years ago. I think it’s a recent cultural change that has caused white people to push past race and try to treat people more equally, but the instincts of racial identity are still visible in where people live, work, and send their children to school.

      • EdwardM
        Posted June 6, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        I think all you have demonstrated is that young humans are innately very good at recognizing differences between other humans. Racism is different from that. It’s one thing to recognize a difference between you and another human, but it is altogether different thing to conclude that the other is thereby inferior. That has to be taught.

        • Adam M.
          Posted June 6, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          Inferior, I agree. But it seems like some degree of distrust and wariness are automatic.

        • GBJames
          Posted June 6, 2020 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          It is irrelevant if it needs to be taught or not. It needs be countered regardless. I think you are seeking to use the naturalistic fallacy. It is a senseless argument.

          • Adam M.
            Posted June 6, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

            I made no attempt to justify anything. I fully agree that harmful behaviors need to be corrected, whether biologically based or not.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted June 6, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        “You know the sense that people of other races “all look alike”? […] It seems to be biological.”
        I think it is not ‘biological’. I think it has much to do with what you are confronted with in daily life. I spent a few years as a white man mainly among a coloured (what you would call ‘black’ in the US) community, and darn, why do all these white people look the same? Are they inbred? (which in South Africa is not a far-fetched notion 🙂 ).

  13. Adam M.
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    It’s sad that people call police on blacks without any evidence that they’re up to no good. Even if blacks are statistically more dangerous, it’s not justifiable to apply that to individuals without good reason.

    That said, I’d much rather be a black person venturing into a white neighborhood than a white person venturing into a black neighborhood. I remember reading part of Nathan McCall’s autobiography from back when he was a journalist for The Washington Post. He openly described an incident from his life like this:

    “The fellas and I were hanging out on our corner one afternoon when the strangest thing happened. A white boy, who looked to be about 18 or 19, came pedaling a bicycle casually through the neighborhood. I don’t know if he was lost or confused, but he was definitely in the wrong place… Somebody spotted him and pointed him out to the rest of us. ‘Look! What’s that motherfucka doin’ ridin’ through here?! Is here craaaazy?!’ It was automatic. We all took off after him. We caught him on Cavalier Boulevard and knocked him off the bike… Ignoring the passing cars, we stomped him and kicked him. My stick partners kicked him in the head and face and watched the blood gush from his mouth. I kicked him in the stomach and nuts, where I knew it would hurt. Every time I drove my foot into his balls, I felt better… One dude kept stomping, like he’d gone berserk… When he finished, he reached down and picked up the white dude’s bike, lifted it as high as he could above his head, and slammed it down on him hard… We walked away, laughing, boasting, competing for bragging rights about who’d done the most damage.”

    Perhaps it’s just a sign of the changing times, but describing this kind of past behavior had no negative effect on his career. Anyway, if it’s “automatic” to attack and beat white people who came into his neighborhood, I’d much rather take my chances with the cops…

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted June 6, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      What’s your underlying point here? Are you suggesting that black people are inherently inclined to greater lawlessness and violence?

  14. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I find it funny that both Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper are ‘Coopers’. Can you believe it?
    I note that Amy is not just an obvious racist, but also a liar, since she says: “I’m not a racist.” How so? Like: I’m not a racist, I only commit racist acts? Or what?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 7, 2020 at 1:04 am | Permalink

      Thinking of Coopers, this sounds like grist for Sara Cooper’s satirical karaoke mill, should she decide to branch out. Bet she could do a wicked parody of the video, playing both of the other two Coopers.

  15. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    A sad situation when a birder can’t peacefully pursue his hobby because he is black. I think that the recent protests over the Floyd murder will result in some changes. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the change will be too limited.

    • Charles A Sawicki
      Posted June 6, 2020 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Oops leave out the don’t.

  16. aburstein
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Not to detract from the inherent unpleasantness of having the police called on you for no reason, I think it would be very interesting to hear from him how his interactions with those police officers went.

    Was he treated unfairly? Did they charge him with anything? Did he fear for his life?

    According to the narrative we have been hearing from so many people, these are the common experiences when black people have innocent interactions with the police. I would love to hear how his experience corroborates that narrative (or doesn’t).

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 6, 2020 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      It’s my understanding that by the time the police came both Coopers had left the scene. Christian Cooper shared his video of the encounter with his sister and she posted it on her twitter feed. It went viral from there. Two dog walkers saw it and recognized the woman and her dog. They wrestled with disclosing her identity then exposed her. I don’t know how this came to the attention of the police after the fact. Assuming that Christian Cooper met with the police well after the fact, he’s said nothing untoward about that encounter; in fact, I can’t find that he said anything about how he was treated by the police.

      Had the police arrived on the scene at the time of the incident, who knows, he could well have been killed or maybe not. It would also depend on how Amy Cooper characterized the situation. I do know that a couple of years ago here in the Bay Area, a woman who was given the sobriquet “Barbecue Becky,” harassed a group of black people,a family, having a barbecue in a local park because she said they couldn’t use a charcoal bbq in that area and she insisted they stop. She may well have been correct but she harassed and pestered them for a couple of hours. She called the police more than once because the people continued their barbecue. One of the people in the group began filming her. She went into an act almost identical to Amy Cooper’s — she was being harassed and threatened by black men and she feared for her life. Her voice became tremulous and weepy as if she was being threatened at that very moment. Nobody was near the woman. Finally the police came, and after assessing the situation they took Barbecue Becky into custody for a 72 hour psychiatric hold. Now that’s cops evaluating the situation and acting with fairness. But the spectre of Emmet Till, dare I say, colors these incidents. Decades later Emmett Till’s accuser admitted that she lied!

  17. Posted June 6, 2020 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    One thing I don’t get is why the police respond. Should they not demand from a caller a clear description of what the “suspicious” person is doing that makes him suspicious? What could the caller say about a bird watcher, except a lie, that would prompt a response?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted June 6, 2020 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      Please see my comment above. The police arrived well after both Coopers were gone. And check out the audio exchange on the video Christian Cooper made. At one point the dispatcher asked Amy Cooper what her race was — this after she’d identified Christian Cooper as an African American threatening her and went into her ‘I’m terrified’ act. She pauses, then says that her race is unimportant (sure!). After being pressed by the dispatcher who says that the police won’t know whom to look for if she doesn’t disclose her race, she reluctantly says that she’s white. She’s sure ‘playing the race card’ both ends against the middle. I’d bet the dispatcher knew she was squirrelly and that it wasn’t a 911 emergency requiring police presence lickety-split to save the lily white damsel in distress.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 6, 2020 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Lots of suspicious clues: looking through binoculars; sneaking around in a crouch behind bushes; creeping toward a tree line like a hungry lion. All signs of a dangerous perp. 😎

      • Posted June 6, 2020 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        ha ha. And all those bird calls.

        • rickflick
          Posted June 6, 2020 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

          Yes. Bird calls are somewhat frowned upon since they could disrupt natural behaviors. Careful birders use them with restraint. Some birds are almost impossible to see, but will respond to a call.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted June 6, 2020 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

        If either of these black male birders had been birdwatching in Georgia, creeping around with binoculars and crouching behind bushes in white neighborhoods, and they came across some good ole boys like the McMichaels, père and fils, who saw Ahmaud Arbery, a black man out for a jog, forget calling the cops on them, they’d be shot on sight.

        • rickflick
          Posted June 6, 2020 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

          Not even safe north of the Mason–Dixon line. The Civil War is not over.

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted June 7, 2020 at 12:11 am | Permalink

            Too true.

  18. Posted June 6, 2020 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    My family grew up in Missouri. My mother lived in a small town with whites only, and blacks lived nearby in a separate town. You can be certain there was racism. While growing up, I probably heard all the negative words racists call blacks, hispanics, orientals, certain Europeans, etc. Somehow, my brother became racist and, I would like to believe that I did not.

    In the early years of marriage, in Southern California, my husband and I had a number of hispanic friends that he tutored. We were kicked out of two different rentals for having these hispanic friends visit. It frightened the neighbors. When we moved to the Bay Area, my husband worked at Stanford with people of all races, many of whom were friends. And when he worked for the City and County of San Francisco (Police Department in their data processing!!!), a large percentage of the supervisors and other employees were oriental.

    I taught my three children to treat all people justly, and they do. My son is vehement about it and hates to hear people make color distinctions. One of my daughter’s married a black man and my two wonderful grandsons are mixed race. Both faced discrimination in Oregon as they grew up. The one who still lives here is chronically concerned about his safety when he’s on the street. The other has become an engineer and lives on the peninsula south of San Francisco. I hope he doesn’t encounter as much racism due to the greater diversity there. But, I worry nonetheless. I can only imagine what the families of dark skinned persons killed by our police must be feeling. My heart goes out to them. It must stop with us.

  19. Deodand
    Posted June 6, 2020 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday I was talking with the owner of a local bookshop and he described how a friend had been training one of the ‘Peoples of Color’ to do plumbing as a way to help them get off welfare benefits, the one constant problem he had was that when he took them into peoples houses he would be told to stay with the trainee because the house owner thought they were ‘casing the joint’ to see what they could steal.

    Attitudes like that don’t help solve racial issues. Nor do teaching that racism is an inherent trait of particular races.

    We have to learn to live together or else.


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