Changing Our Narrative Exclusive
In May 2020 news and social media exploded with the viral video of Amy Cooper, a white woman who called 911 with false accusations that a black man was attacking her and her dog in a section of New York’s Central Park designated for bird watching.
The accused man was Christian Cooper (pictured above and no relation to Ms. Cooper), a Harvard graduate, pioneering comic book writer, biomedical editor for Health Science Communication, avid bird watcher – and a black man.
Reports mentioned that Ms. Cooper held a high-profile job at Franklin Templeton, an investment firm. After watching the video, long-time Franklin Templeton client Raelanda Robinson called the company to express her disgust over the racially motivated maneuvers of Ms. Cooper.
“Her actions could have a negative impact on this young man’s life,” said Ms. Robinson. “He could have been killed. He could have been fired from his job. His quality of life could have been altered and changed based on a lie.”
Ms. Robinson described Ms. Cooper’s 911 call, released by the NYPD, as typical. “Her actions were deplorable and unacceptable. She had no reason to make a false police report on this young man. Not at all.”
Amy Cooper is not the first white woman, now referred to as “Karens,” to make such unfounded charges; she is simply the latest to level fabricated criminal accusations against a black man with the goal of causing him harm or shifting the spotlight of blame from her own ill deeds or criminal activity.
Susan Smith was convicted of murder in 1995 after strapping her two toddler sons into their car seats and allowing her car to roll into a lake. Smith, who is white and currently serving a life sentence, alleged she was carjacked by a black man who also kidnapped her children. For nearly a week Smith kept the lie going and even went before a bank of local and national news cameras pleading the safe return of her two little boys, Michael, who was three years old, and 14-month old Alex. Like the Smith case, Amy Cooper garnered international attention because she falsely blamed a black man on camera and the video was seen around the world.
It was through social media that Ms. Robinson initially learned of the Amy Cooper video.
“I first heard about Amy Cooper via Facebook,” said Ms. Robinson. “One of my Facebook friends posted what transpired around May 26.”
Ms. Robinson, who is African American, is keenly aware of the challenges of living a black life in America. After describing Ms. Cooper’s false 911 call as typical, Ms. Robinson wove together a descriptive “living while black” narrative. “I’m referring to the latest and greatest: driving while black, eating while black, in your own home watching TV and eating ice cream while black, sleeping while black, going to the library while black, it doesn’t matter what we do. It could be walking down the street and because of the color of our skin it makes us a target. It makes us subject to being profiled because of someone’s disgust or disdain for the color of our skin.”
The mother of two middle school children, Ms. Robinson spoke passionately about the need to have a cell phone video camera at the ready. “I have to be on guard no matter what transpires. I have to be on guard for my children 24-7! I have to have my cell phone ready to click record just so I can have some type of validation of what transpired because apparently my word isn’t good enough.”
As the Amy Cooper video went viral, the phone lines at Franklin Templeton in New York City lit up. According to Ms. Robinson, her contact within the investment firm informed her the company was receiving hundreds of calls complaining about Amy Cooper.
Within hours of the Cooper video going viral, Franklin Templeton was forced to respond via Twitter. “We take these matters very seriously, and not condone racism of any kind. While we are in the process of investigating the situation, the employee involved has been put on administrative leave.”
“When I learned this young lady worked at a company that works for me, I’m the client and I have a dog in the fight,” said Ms. Robinson. “I’ve been with Franklin Templeton Investment for over twenty years. I didn’t have to Google their telephone number, I just had to go through my phone contacts and call them. And they said, ‘Yes, Ms. Robinson, how can I help you?’
“I specifically said to Franklin Templeton that I was disgusted by the recent interaction and events by one of their employees. The young lady said they were fully aware of what transpired and the video that went viral. I shared with them that I didn’t feel comfortable. You’re dealing with my money and you have a fiduciary responsibility to give me correct, adequate, and valid information.
“I didn’t know what Amy Cooper’s role was within Franklin Templeton. All I know is now I’m on guard because I could have talked with her. She could have given me misleading information, which could have had a negative impact financially to my family. So how can I trust someone in your company that does this? And I’m quite sure she didn’t just become racist in 30 seconds or 30 minutes. This just didn’t happen. This was in her.”
Ms. Robinson, who is a seasoned corporate executive with a 25-year track record with one firm understands the culture of corporate America. “Franklin Templeton is not an all-white company. They have employees with different backgrounds, different cultures, different beliefs, and to have somebody represent that company like Amy Cooper leaves a black mark or stain on that company.”
Upon learning that Amy Cooper was an employee of Franklin Templeton, Ms. Robinson seriously considered moving her portfolio. “I’m considering speaking with my financial advisor and see if I want to pick up my marbles and go elsewhere. Obviously the 20-plus years that I’ve had, which is long-standing; I don’t hop from company to company but maybe I need to reconsider taking my marbles to a competitor.”
According to Ms. Robinson, the lady on the phone was very apologetic. “She didn’t want me to move my business. She totally understood and kept apologizing and said that the young lady was suspended. Later on, I found out that she was actually terminated.”
At the time Amy Cooper placed her ill-fated 911 call she was a vice president at Franklin Templeton and head of the firm’s insurance investments.
“My initial thought was that she deserved to be fired,” said Ms. Robinson. “She deserved to lose everything because she compromised someone else’s quality of life. I’m sure this was not the first incident; this is just one that was captured on video and that went viral. So this isn’t the first time that she’s done this.”
After watching the video several times, Ms. Robinson shared Franklin Templeton’s corporate phone number via social media. “When I found out where she worked I published Franklin Templeton’s number on Facebook so other people can share their concerns with the company.
“We have a voice. And we have to use our voice. And don’t be afraid because right is right. People know within their company that they have folks that are not right and do a disservice. When you see something say something. In other words, clean house – it’s OK.”