The man, Christian Cooper, has written a new memoir and is my guest. One chapter is devoted to the Central Park incident. The rest of the book is about growing up as an outsider and how he turned that to his advantage. Growing up in the '70s, he was a young Black birdwatcher in a world of white birdwatchers, a closeted gay boy and a Marvel comic book nerd before that was considered cool. While at Harvard, he came out and then became a gay activist. He was one of the first openly gay writers and editors at Marvel and created what he thinks was Marvel's first lesbian character and was in on the creation of Marvel's first openly gay male character....So he blames her for what happened to a Mississippi boy in 1955.
Up until then, it had been the second-oldest story in the Ramble, which is dog owner versus birdwatcher. But now, suddenly, it had a racial dimension because it took us to a place where a white woman is saying, a Black man is putting my life in danger. And that has led to so many dark places in our nation's history, you know, most famously, Emmett Till, the lynchings in the South, so many instances of a white woman making a damsel-in-distress call and the full weight of the authorities coming down on, sometimes, entire Black communities as a result.
The show ends:
GROSS: Christian Cooper's new memoir is called "Better Living Through Birding: Notes From A Black Man In The Natural World." Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, we'll talk about how the American Catholic Church, for about a century, relied on the profits from enslaving and selling Black people to fund the building of schools and churches, support its clergy and keep expanding. My guest will be Rachel Swarns, author of a new book about the Catholic Church's involvement in slavery and the families it enslaved. I hope you'll join us.They have race hatred all the time, I guess.