USC responds to Taraji P. Henson’s account of son getting racially profiled

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Earlier this week, “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson shared that her son was racially profiled in Glendale, California.

“Then he’s at [the] 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 during an interview with Uptown magazine. Henson says that experience changed her decision to send her 20-year-old son, Marcel, to the University of Southern California.


Chief John Thomas, University of Southern California Department Of Public Safety (DPS)
Chief John Thomas, University of Southern California Department Of Public Safety (DPS) Photo Credit: USC website

Her account troubled officials of USC, and the Department of Public Safety Director John Thomas in particular, who revealed in a response to Henson’s claims that he himself has been a victim of racial profiling.

“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,” Thomas said in a statement released to various news media outlets.


“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,” he said.

Following her experience, Henson revealed she opted to send her son to a historically black college, her alma mater, Howard University, in Washington, D.C. “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?’ ”

Unfortunately for Henson, speaking up created more controversy in the Twittersphere, to which Henson replied, “I really don’t care what ppl think about what I do with MY LIFE AND ALL INVOLVED WITH ME!!!!! Give it a rest.”

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