Bias or Something Else?/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on May 28, 2020

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A few days ago, Amy Cooper was walking her dog in Central Park. An African-American gentleman told her that her dog was not leashed. Ms. Cooper reacted to this comment by calling NYC police and falsely claiming she had been threatened by the man. Ultimately, the story went viral and Ms. Cooper lost her job and is perceived widely as a racist, if not a lawbreaker.

How likely is it that Ms. Cooper has racist tendencies? One may presume that she has been in racially-mixed schools and work environments. There is no proof of racist behavior in these areas that has come to light. If she is not a racist, why call the police on the innocent gentleman who told her, appropriately, that her dog needed to be leashed? My conclusion is that she did not appreciate being rebuked and wanted “payback”. It was easy enough to call the police and gain such payback via the false police report. Anger in the heat of the moment can play tricks on one’s cognitive decision-making.

When parties are embroiled in a dispute, they may resort to harmful words and actions. Once the vicious cycle begins, how to end it? Litigation will not do the trick. The civil and peaceful means of mediation can go a long was in leading to the path of Win-Win. For those who value de-escalation of conflict, mediation makes sense. The saga of Ms. Cooper is an unfortunate example of “flying by the seat of your pants”. Her behavior is indicative of how many of us MIGHT act. Have an issue with another? Discuss it. Consider options. Keep cool. If it gets past that point, the option is simple; mediate don’t litigate. (A P.S to the story is that the gentleman in the story, Christian Cooper, has asked that no further action be taken against Ms. Cooper.)