(Updated below with a statement from USC)
Washington native Taraji P. Henson is making headlines on Monday. The “Empire” star told Uptown Magazine that she’s planning to send her 20-year-old son, Marcel, to Howard University, a historically black school in the District — because she says he was racially profiled when he visited University of Southern California.
“My child has been racially profiled. He was in Glendale, California and did exactly everything the cops told him to do, including letting them illegally search his car. It was bogus because they didn’t give him the ticket for what he was pulled over for,” she told the magazine.
“Then he’s at University of Southern California, the school that I was going to transfer him to, when police stopped him for having his hands in his pockets,” she said of her son, who attended a private high school in Los Angeles. “So guess where he’s going? Howard University. I’m not paying $50K so I can’t sleep at night wondering is this the night my son is getting racially profiled on campus.”
Henson also spoke out about a similar incident on Twitter during the trending #BlackLivesMatter hashtag earlier this year in the wake of Ferguson and several police brutality cases:
Originally from Southeast D.C., Henson is also a Howard University alum — the school enlisted her to be a grand marshal during the homecoming parade in 2013.
According to a Post magazine profile of the actress, Henson originally attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. But after she failed pre-calculus, her father urged her to consider Howard’s theater program, since she dreamed of being an actress.
Late Monday night, the University of Southern California released the following statement from John Thomas, executive director of the USC Department of Public Safety:
I was deeply disturbed to read news reports about a prospective student who felt profiled on or near campus because of his race. We encourage reporting of allegations of bias and I hope for the opportunity to have a conversation with the young man and his mother.
I would like to look into this matter further and better understand who was involved and what took place. As someone who personally experienced racial profiling as a teenager, I have a stake in learning more about this incident and doing all I can to reach a just resolution.
It is not clear to me which police departments were involved. Any allegation of bias or unequal treatment by university officers would trigger an investigation that I would supervise along with the university’s Office of Equity and Diversity. It is my expectation and that of the university that our department uphold the highest standards of constitutional policing, affording equal rights and respect to all persons.