Bird watcher Christian Cooper shares message on systemic bias in new comic book: "Let's not get distracted"

Christian Cooper's comic book on racism
Christian Cooper's comic book on racism 08:04

Christian Cooper, a Black writer and bird watcher who filmed a White woman calling the police on him in Central Park earlier this year, is sharing a message on systemic racism in his new comic book, "It's a Bird." The book follows a Black teen bird watcher named Jules who sees the stories of African Americans who have been killed by police, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, through an old pair of binoculars.

"The idea is to weave together all these different experiences, you know, experiences that I've had, experiences that others have had, the experiences we've all seen over the summer and before of African Americans who have lost their lives," Cooper said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday. "And by transcending the specifics of any of those individual moments, getting to the heart of the matter. You know, what's going on here, which is the systemic bias that pervades all these incidents."

Jules also encounters a White woman named Beth who threatens to call the police and "tell them an African American is threatening my life." The interaction is inspired in part by Cooper's experience in Central Park with Amy Cooper, who falsely claimed to police that Christian was threatening her and her dog. Christian had asked her to follow the park rules and leash her dog.

But, Christian said Beth does not represent "any one person or any one thing."

"That's a pastiche of a lot of encounters I've had and encounters that other people have had," he said. "She represents sort of someone who's mired in that bias and doesn't recognize it."

Christian said he has not spoken with Amy Cooper since the incident in May and is not interested in talking with her. 

"I'm not looking for a Jerry Springer moment or a hair-pulling fight or, you know, a feel good hug-it-out moment, which has no substance or meaning behind it," he said. "What I'm really focused on is, you know, let's not get distracted. There are a lot of people who have a vested interest right now in distracting us from tackling this systemic bias."

Christian said people should follow Jules' example in "It's a Bird," when he walks away from Beth.

"Focus on this issue, just as Jules does when he turns away from that person who's trying to make it all about her, and he focuses on those people, and that's the point. Focus on those we have lost and how we keep from losing anymore," he said. 

Christian also explained why Jules wears glasses, like himself, in the story. 

"I've never gone to contact lenses because people act differently to a Black man wearing these and a Black man like this," he said, taking off his glasses. "That's one of the sad comments on our society, and, you know, how do we start to fix that? That's what we need to get at."

"It's a Bird" is available for free on readdc.com.