Admit It…You Have Amy Coopers In Your Schools.

Last week, I watched American cities burn: Minneapolis, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia. 

And while the murder of George Floyd was the catalyst, Amy Cooper played a role. 

It’s easy to identify the threat the police pose to black people, but white women like Amy Cooper don’t wear uniforms. They work undercover. And they’re everywhere.

On May 25, Amy Cooper, a white woman, called the policeon Christian Cooper (no relation) who was bird-watching in a wooded section of Central Park. Cooper, a black man, had simply asked her to put her dog on a leash. When a police officer in Minneapolis killed George Floyd that same day, it crystalised the danger that behavior like Amy Cooper’s is to black men and women everyday.

It’s easy to identify the threat the police pose to black people, but white women like Amy Cooper don’t wear uniforms. They work undercover. And they’re everywhere.

I’ve worked with Amy Coopers. Over the course of my years in New Jersey public schools (six years teaching and four years in administration), I’ve gotten numerous calls from Amy Coopers to remove black boys from the classroom. I’ve witnessed Amy Coopers—who view young black men as a walking and talking threat—watch and do nothing as police officers assaulted a young black student with special needs. 

The police and the Amy Coopers of the world aren’t separate. They work in tandem. 

Roughly 62 percent of teachers nationwide are white women. Around 48 percent of schools nationwide have a sworn officer patrolling the halls. That number jumps to 68 percent for high schools, and it increases even more in high schools with more students of color. Among those officers and teachers, there are certainly some “bad apples.”


But if I can borrow from Chris Rock, teaching—as well as policing—is a profession where you can’t afford to have bad apples.

America’s tree is bad down to the roots. Amy Cooper’s frantic 9-1-1 call, a weaponization of her white privilege, could have ended with Christian Cooper being murdered at the hands of the police, just like George Floyd was twelve hours later and 1,200 miles away. Yet we continue to try to weed out bad apples, instead of uprooting the whole tree and planting a new one.

Sadly, Amy Coopers wield their privilege in classrooms each day, and black students are the recipients of that fury. They are suspended or arrested, and thereby undereducated in schools that lack black teachers or a curriculum that is representative of their history and experience.  

Racism is why black teachers aren’t in classrooms. It’s also the reason that, even when black teachers are hired, they’re relegated as disciplinarians for black students rather than content leaders for all students (and why black and Latinx teachers receive lower scores on teacher evaluations, compared to their white counterparts). 

Tell me, is that because there’s an “achievement gap” for teachers too? 

No. Bad apples exist in schools and they are empowered by racist and anti-black policies and procedures. Black children are being harmed intellectually, emotionally, and even physically by the adults who claim to care for them.

So when white educators ask me “what more can we do?,” I get frustrated. It is the equivalent of being told to come up with a solution for racism when declaring (once again) that racism is the problem.

Black people did not create racism and while we know that most white teachers did not either, per se, the construct of race continues to exist in real time and in a real way. While black protestors are arrested and detained as soon as they take to the streets, it took days for Derek Chauvin, George Floyd’s murderer, to be arrested and more than a week for the other three officers on the scene to be charged. 

America must stop protecting the ignorance of white people and calling it innocence.

These disparities are prevalent elsewhere, too. For example, Kelley Williams-Bolar, a black mother, was sentenced to five years in prison for lying about her address so her kids could switch to a better school; Felicity Huffman, the white actress who starred in Desperate Housewives, only received two weeks in jail for paying $15,000 to a proctor to correct her daughter’s SAT score in order to get her into a better school.


With police brutalizing protestors in nearly every major American city, now is not the time to phone-a-black-friend and ask what you can do as a white person—or as a leader of a white institutional space—to facilitate equity and abandon racist policies in educational spaces. 

America must stop protecting the ignorance of white people and calling it innocence.

As an educator, you are degreed and licensed. You know how to conduct research and build a course of study. If you believe that you are ignorant of issues that impact black people—or on the history of racism and racial capitalism in the construction of the United States—the best thing you can do is create a course of study for yourself.

Find books written by critical race scholars, historians, and scholars of color to build your base of knowledge. Don’t burden your black colleagues and black parents to create a “how to” guide for white educators on the fly. 

When you gain the knowledge, unpack and reflect on that information with other educators like yourself. Discuss ways to utilize that knowledge on behalf of black children and black people, and to reimagine schools.

This should include pushing for schools with more black teachers (especially more black male teachers), more nurses and counselors, and no cops. It is not enough to not be racist; educators must pick a side. Labeling yourself “not racist” isn’t the same thing as becoming an “antiracist.” 

Removing police from schools—as has happened in Minneapolis and Portland—is an example of where school districts can start antiracist work.

Rann Miller‘s post was originally posted on Progressive.org.

What do you think?

About the author

Rann Miller

View all posts

1 Comment

  • We moved to Atlanta, GA in the 1990’S. With the Blatant in your face Racism and the Schools ranked 50th. in Education, we were Educated and Qualified to become Home School Instructors. My 6 children and 13 Grandchildren are Home Schooled. 2 of my 4 sons are disabled. My son with Cerebral Palsy graduated high school and went to college. He is still studying online. My son with Autism has NO ATTENTION TO DETAIL so we found his NICHE in TECHNOLOGY. He tested Genius.

    Thank You for letting me vent.

More Comments