Opinion | Christian Cooper and the Birds of New York

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To the Editor:

Re “Birds Show Us What It Means to Be Free,” by Christian Cooper (Opinion guest essay, May 28):

I am a Central Park birder who has known Christian Cooper for many years. It is heartwarming to know that out of something bad — what he described as the “racially explosive” encounter with a white woman with her dog in 2020 — came something immensely good.

Among birders Chris is a cherished member of our community. He is known for his knowledge of birds, his ability not only to spot birds but also to identify birdsong, as well as his generosity in sharing this knowledge with those of us less gifted than he is. How wonderful that Chris is now able to share all this with a wider public.

Thanks in good part to Chris, the world of birding is no longer an all-white activity. Walk in the Ramble in the spring and you’ll meet Black, Hispanic and Asian birders as well as many young birders.

Judith Schiller Rabi
New York

To the Editor:

Christian Cooper’s experience of finding community in Central Park highlights one of the enduring values of this iconic green space: New Yorkers from all backgrounds can find respite and be together regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status — the core ethos of the park.

Today, when more people than ever flock to Central Park, this value will be tested as society changes around us. The public has the power to help protect this democratic space by following the rules that were designed to make crowded spaces work for all.

As Mr. Cooper points out, leashing dogs and keeping them out of sensitive landscapes, like in the Ramble, reduce conflicts and allow everyone to enjoy the unique urban space together.

Betsy Smith
New York
The writer is the president and C.E.O. of the Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit that maintains and manages Central Park.

To the Editor:

What a beautifully written essay by Christian Cooper. It captures the wonder, amazement and beauty of diversity in nature of which we humans are just a part.

I’m so glad that such a narrow-minded and potentially dangerous encounter in Central Park resulted in such a rewarding and positive means of expression for him and one that we birders will enjoy following — in all our colors, interests and loves.

Beth Miller
Tallahassee, Fla.

A Worker Shortage

To the Editor:

Re “U.S. Semiconductor Boom Faces Shortage of Workers” (Business, May 22):

The U.S. semiconductor industry won’t fill its gaping work force deficit without women and people of color, but we have a long way to go. Recent studies show that only 15 percent of engineers are women, and just 5 percent are Black.

To make matters worse, 40 percent of women who graduate with engineering degrees are leaving the field, if they enter it at all. This is bad math. If we don’t find a way to bridge gender and racial gaps in engineering, it will be impossible to generate the 70,000-plus semiconductor workers we’ll need to become a global industry player.

We can’t talk about overcoming skills gaps without also talking about how to encourage more historically marginalized groups to join the semiconductor field.

Higher ed and industry have to come together to make clear that these jobs have important societal impact, provide hands-on experiences that signify belonging and create desirable workplaces.

All these factors are of general importance to talent recruitment and retention, and research shows they are particularly important to women and those who are underrepresented in the field. The math is quite simple.

Sian Beilock
New York
The writer is the departing president of Barnard and the president-elect of Dartmouth.

When Innocent People Are Convicted

To the Editor:

“Justice Long Denied, Ensured by Prosecutors,” by Lisa Belkin (Opinion guest essay, May 20), describes Texas and Florida prosecutors’ tragic unwillingness to reconsider two innocent men’s convictions.

The Texas and Florida courts, along with the Department of Justice, deserve some blame for state prosecutors’ closed-mindedness.

At the American Bar Association’s urging, 24 state courts have adopted rules recognizing prosecutors’ ethical responsibility to rectify the conviction of innocent people. This means that after winning a conviction, prosecutors must tell the court and the defense if they learn of significant new exculpatory evidence. This may also mean reinvestigating and then supporting defense efforts to free demonstrably innocent inmates.

Sadly, many prosecutors oppose these common-sense ethical rules. In a 2011 letter to Washington State’s Supreme Court, for instance, the D.O.J. predicted that the rules would unleash a host of dire consequences, none of which occurred after the rules were nevertheless adopted.

In Texas, Florida and around half the other states, owing largely to the D.O.J.’s opposition, prosecutors have no ethical obligation to correct wrongful convictions.

It is time for the D.O.J. to reverse its official position and for state courts to confirm prosecutors’ ethical duty to admit and correct their mistakes.

Nora Freeman Engstrom
Bruce Green
Ms. Engstrom is a professor at Stanford Law School, and Mr. Green is a professor at Fordham Law School.

Keep Politics Out of the Courts

To the Editor:

Re “The Courts Should Be More Political, Not Less,” by Jedediah Britton-Purdy (Opinion guest essay, May 21):

In an ideal world judges would be chosen and rule without regard to politics. In reality, as Professor Britton-Purdy argues, the judiciary is just another political branch of government. Too often, the selection of judges and the thrust of their decisions reflect their political beliefs.

Taking this as a given, Professor Britton-Purdy urges that democracy is best protected if judicial candidates more openly espouse their constitutional viewpoints and voters can make better informed decisions in selecting those who more closely reflect popular constitutional beliefs.

While Professor Britton-Purdy’s proposal has the appeal of a practical solution, it points in a dangerous direction. If judging is accepted as merely an alternative exercise of politics, the basic belief in a fair and impartial system of justice will be fatally forgotten.

Better to keep alive the vision of courts as “forums of principle, wisdom and deliberation” that deliver just judgments free of political fervor. While that may be an elusive goal, our historic democratic precepts require its pursuit.

Gerald Harris
New York
The writer is a retired New York City Criminal Court judge.

Reparations and Tax Relief

To the Editor:

“Reparations Put Democrats in a Quandary” (front page, May 28) cites a number of ways reparations can be implemented. But they have a major drawback: the distribution of large amounts of government funds at one time. This, of course, is impossible in practice.

Instead, why doesn’t the federal government provide those who can be documented as descendants of enslaved people relief from paying federal taxes for their lifetimes? It would be even better if states were to do the same, as well as provide relief from property taxes.

Ideally, this would apply to the current generation of descendants and their children.

Bernard S. Sharfman
Bethesda, Md.

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