Taraji P. Henson and son Marcel Henson in 2014 
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

In a recent interview with Uptown magazine, Taraji P. Henson explained exactly why she was sending her son to Howard University after an experience on the campus of the University of Southern California.

“My child has been racially profiled,” she told Uptown. “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.

“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. 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’s interview has now prompted USC to launch an investigation into the racial-profiling claims.

USC’s Department of Public Safety Chief John Thomas released the following statement:

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.


Henson’s claims also caught the attention of the National Action Network, which also called for a full investigation into the situation. “Our organization is in full support of Taraji P. Henson and her allegations of racial profiling against USC police. We are aware of the numerous complaints about racial profiling over the years by students concerning the discrimination and racial profiling that they have experienced at the hands of USC campus police officers, and our organization wants an independent investigation by the U.S Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder concerning our concerns about racial profiling at USC,” stated Najee Ali, political director of the network.

Allegations of racism and profiling have plagued the USC campus over the last couple of years. In 2013 a group of black college students alleged that they were being profiled when 70 police officers were called to break up their on-campus house party. The students organized a protest during which signs reading, “We are scholars, not criminals,” were carried.

Hopefully Henson’s claims not only will bring forth an investigation into what happened to her son but also will highlight the fact that black students on USC’s campus have to worry about maintaining their grade point average while living in fear of being profiled.