Dear Amy Cooper, it is not your fault

Having threatened the life of an innocent Black man, you have been given a small taste of what it is like to be Black.

by
    [Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]
    [Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

    Dear Amy,

    It is not your fault.

    You do not deserve this. The internet is a hellscape of hatred.

    No. That is unfair. The internet is simply a tool. Dispassionate. It does not care what comes of this.

    And, to be fair, it does much that is good. Like any tool, it can help us build. A hammer, after all, is a tool we can use to build a safe home for a child.

    But we can also use it to smash a skull.

    That is the way of tools. Is it the tool's fault that the skull is smashed? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I have great difficulty answering such questions.

    The internet is just a tool. But people have beaten you with it and I am sorry for that, Amy. You do not deserve this.

    That is the problem with a hammer. It is designed to hit. So, holding a hammer, we think only of hitting. The internet is so like a hammer. A tool designed to state, to pronounce. Not to listen.

    One can turn a screw with a hammer. But it takes a great deal of work, and it often bends the screw. Better to simply hit it. Hard. That still bends the screw, but it takes much less work.

    We do not listen well with this internet tool. And when we do, we bend what we hear. It is designed to speak. To vocalise without a voice. With one hundred million voices.

    Likes and retweets and shares of voices.

    All of our thoughts, any thought. Without thought. With strong emotions. Strong emotions are good for likes and shares. And retweets. And restatements. And agreement. And outrage. And anger. And hatred.

    Anger and hatred are easy. There is no cost. I know this. When she was two years old, a man threatened to rape my daughter because I wrote a story about myself. It cost him nothing to send me such hatred.

    That is the way of the internet. He was simply using the tool in the way it was designed. It was easy for him to do. My life smashed with a hammer of words that cost him nothing to use.

    You, too, know this now. So many are smashing you with this hammer, Amy, and I am sorry. That is why I called it a hellscape of hatred. But that is wrong. I tend toward the dramatic.

    The internet is just a tool we have designed. The tool does not care how it is used. And sometimes we create tools that are easier to use one way than another. Sometimes our tools make it easier to smash a skull than to build a safe home for a child. It cost them nothing to destroy your life. Anger is easier than compassion.

    How do we encourage compassion, Amy? How do we make it easier to build a safe home for a child than to smash a skull?

    I imagine you are thinking about this now.

    I think about this a great deal. I have thought about it since I was a child. Ever since my father told me a story of his own childhood.

    My father's skull was once smashed by a hammer.

    Not a literal hammer, mind you, but a different useful tool. A tool that could be used to build a safe home for a child. It took him weeks to heal, and he learned many things. That it was much easier for the tool to hurt him than to help him. That the tool was dispassionate. It did not care what came of that.

    To be fair, the tool did much that is good. It provided safety, security, protection against having a woman's water fountain become contaminated. The tool simply did what it was designed to do.

    Is my father's beating the fault of the woman who called the police when he drank water? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I have great difficulty answering such questions.

    Perhaps his beating is his own fault. After all, he should have obeyed the law.

    There is a truth to this. But the hammer does not care whether the nail is face up or face down. It simply hits it.

    If you obey the law, you will be safe. But the law is just a tool. It does not know whether it is just. It knows only how to hit. So it hits whatever looks like a nail. Sometimes that is a skull.

    You do not deserve the anger and hatred people are sending you, Amy. You were simply using the tool in the way that it was designed. It is easier to use that tool in some ways than others. Protecting white women against the threat of a Black man is easy for the tool. The tool knows how to hit that nail.

    You know how to use that tool.

    If you obey the law, you will be safe. Some people can disobey the law and still know they are safe. That is just how the tool was built. It is dispassionate. It does not care what comes of this.

    And if the tool had killed another Black man for not threatening a white woman, it would only be because that is how the tool is built. The tool would not care if a Black man died for watching the birds. The tool is dispassionate. The tool would just be doing what we designed it to do. The policeman would just be doing what we designed him to do.

    And you, Amy. You were just using the tool in the way it was designed to be used. Would it be your fault if an innocent man had been killed for asking you to obey the law? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I have great difficulty answering such questions.

    But I am hopeful. 

    The tool was also designed to protect you from knowing what it does to the nail. It is just a nail, my fair young lady. Leave it to us. What we do to it need never concern you.

    But now you know how difficult it is to be the nail.

    Now millions of people send you hatred because that is easier than understanding. Millions of people threaten you rather than offer you compassion. Your skull is smashed by a tool called the internet for making the mistake of doing exactly what society told you to do. In a strange way, having threatened the life of an innocent Black man, you have been given a small taste of what it is like to be Black.

    The tool is dispassionate. It does not care what comes of this. But do you? Having learned the truth of the tool, will it be your fault if you now choose to do nothing to change it?

    Perhaps. Perhaps not. I have great difficulty answering such questions.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.


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