WATERTOWN — There was no denying that Nick Sandmann led a group of racist, white and privileged students (pardon the redundancy) in demeaning an indigenous person who endeavored to foster peace.
The January 2019 incident near the Lincoln Memorial exposed the true nature of these youths from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky: They were culture colonizers with no regard for the Native American’s status as a member of a marginalized group. Sandmann put an exclamation point on the mockery the students exhibited by his maniacal sneer! The fact that some of them wore MAGA hats proved they all had malicious intent.
Never mind that a thorough review of what evidence exists shows none of these presumptions to be accurate. This was the grossly premature narrative that developed when the story went viral, and many people cling to this conclusion more than two years later even though the documented facts present a much different picture.
The Covington students did not gang up on the indigenous individuals singing tribal songs and playing instruments. Nathan Phillips, the Native American seen standing face to face with Sandmann, voluntarily walked in the midst of the youths and continued his chanting. Not really knowing why he was there, many of the students began dancing to the music.
On the videos made during the incident, nothing indicates the students began yelling “Build the wall” as had been alleged. Some of the boys started performing the tomahawk chop, which was inappropriate.
But aside from this, the only thing they were actually “guilty” of was wearing MAGA hats. That’s it.
Sandmann sued some news outlets for defaming him in their initial stories. Both CNN and The Washington Post settled with him for undisclosed sums.
Given these developments, most people would likely be reluctant to perpetuate the falsehoods that circulated widely when this news first broke. However, the truth about what occurred revealed through a careful analysis of all the facts is irrelevant. The narrative created by the social justice mob remains the dominant framework used to interpret this story.
And we still haven’t learned to be more cautious about trying to destroy people’s lives when contentious incidents occur. The fact that much of what was claimed in the case of the Covington Catholic High School students turned out to be wrong should guide us in assessing other events. But a popular spin, even when it’s clearly wrong, is hard to abandon.
Amy Cooper found this out the hard way last year in New York City. Dubbed the Central Park Karen, she became a pariah when confronted by a man because she did not have her dog on a leash.
Christian Cooper (no relation) reminded Amy Cooper that people needed to have their dogs on a leash in Central Park. He began recording their encounter with his cellphone, and she decided to call the police. The video was later posted on social media, and the story blew up.
Personal details about Amy Cooper were eventually made public. She lost her job, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged her with filing a false police report.
Many people who made no effort to investigate the facts labeled Amy Cooper a racist who exhibited unfounded fears of a Black man. They pointed to the fact that she told a 911 dispatcher several times that Christian Cooper was “an African American man,” obviously demonstrated that she was obsessing over his race. This is the typical bigotry expressed by those who have no intention of relinquishing the white privilege they enjoy in society.
The charges were dismissed earlier this year after Cooper participated in “a diversionary counseling program that prosecutors said was meant to educate her on the harm of her actions,” according to a story published Feb. 16 by the Associated Press.
The biased sentiment against Amy Cooper was incredibly thick. The AP story that I referenced actually used this headline: “Case dropped after woman in racist NYC run-in gets therapy.” The AP takes it for granted that Cooper is a racist who used her status as a white person to threaten a Black individual.
The article reported that in a follow-up conversation with a police representative (this call was made to Amy Cooper, not the other way around), she said that Christian Cooper had assaulted her (this discussion was not captured on his video). When officers located her in Central Park, she admitted that he had not in fact assaulted her, the story said. Prosecutors warned this could have led to a physical altercation between police and Christian Cooper.
This is true. But it’s intriguing there’s much more focus on his personal safety than on her personal safety.
I wrote a column about this incident last year. My conclusion that people had once again jumped the gun with false presumptions was born out recently with additional reporting.
Megan Phelps-Roper wrote a column Tuesday for the Substack newsletter maintained by author and journalist Bari Weiss. She pointed out that Amy Cooper was not fixated on Christian Cooper’s race as many had claimed.
The reason she told a 911 dispatcher that Cooper was “an African American man” several times was because there was a bad cellphone connection. The dispatcher was having a difficult time hearing what Cooper was saying.
Phelps-Roper discovered this by doing what anyone wishing to comment on the incident should have done: Listen to the 911 calls. This provided facts that many social justice warriors ignored when the story first broke.
After discussing the need to have dogs on leashes, Christian Cooper pulled out some treats to lure Amy Cooper’s dog. Having a man she doesn’t know try to entice her pet to come to him while they’re alone in a secluded area of Central Park is a good justification for her to be concerned.
Tuesday on Weiss’s podcast, Kmele Foster interviewed Amy Cooper. She reiterated that she had concerns about her safety. She said Christian Cooper was holding a bike helmet and that he may use it to strike her if she got closer to him to retrieve her dog.
The dominant focus on this story is the racial element. And given the legacy of how whites have repeatedly used their status to the detriment of Black people, there certainly is some justification for this.
But in the process, most people are ignoring the sexual element. Women have every right to fear men they don’t know (and, in fact, men they do know) based on a few realities.
Women are on average smaller and weaker than are men. In addition, men are on average more prone to physical aggression than are women.
Men often use their physical prowess to try to intimidate women. The tragic history in this country of women who have been killed by men because they trusted them is very long. How many more of them need to die to show that this is a legitimate concern?
I’ve seen no evidence that Christian Cooper had any intention of using treats to lure Amy Cooper’s dog so that he could assault her. But she didn’t know him and had no clue what he was planning to do at the time.
Her fear of being a woman in an isolated section of Central Park with a man with whom she wasn’t familiar is reasonable, regardless of his or her race. The uncertainty of what he was up to justified her letting police know that she felt threatened.
However, this still isn’t good enough for the social justice mob. Amy Cooper continues to be ridiculed for believing she was in danger.
This is nonsense! The right of any woman to protect herself must not be sacrificed on the altar of woke ideology.
The reality, though, is that many popular narratives simply will not die, no matter how false they prove to be down the line. And I guarantee that many people will fall into the same trap when a similar situation arises. We just never learn, do we?
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.