“I do not know a black man, period, who has not been profiled. I do not know a black man who has not been stopped at some point — including Stedman Graham,” Winfrey told King, referring to her boyfriend of more than 30 years.
In an online conversation over Zoom titled “WW Presents: Your Life in Focus: A Vision Forward,” the longtime best friends reflected on a series of current events, including this weekend’s protests across the country sparked by the death of George Floyd. Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed Monday after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Noting her “heavy heart,” Winfrey said she couldn’t get the images of Floyd’s death out of her head. When King joined her online, the CBS anchor also admitted that she was having trouble sleeping because she feels so “haunted and unsettled by it.”
“I cannot stop thinking about it,” said King. “I can’t stop thinking about the looting. I can’t stop thinking about George Floyd. I can’t stop thinking about the expression on that cop’s face when he has his knee on his neck. He’s so comfortable he had his hands in his pocket. That’s the universal sign of ‘I’m really chilling here, I’m so comfortable’.”
King also reflected on how she became emotional on air Tuesday morning. Visibly shaken over Floyd’s death and a recent incident in which a white woman called the police on a black birdwatcher in Central Park, King had told viewers: “I am speechless. I am really, really speechless about what we’re seeing on television this morning. It feels to me like open season … and that sometimes it’s not a safe place to be in this country for black men.”
Looking back on her experience on-air Tuesday, King told Winfrey that she “did think I was gonna lose it. I was trying very hard.”
“That story, coupled with the Central Park lady’s story, preceded by Ahmaud Arbery the week before that ... It was just too much,” King told Winfrey.
King also went on to detail the conversations she’s had with her own son, Will, expressing her fear that something could happen to him when he goes out to walk his dog.
“Will, walking your dog Scott who we all know and love ... You’re doing the most ordinary things and you lose your life doing the most ordinary things,” she said, pointing out that her son said he always wears T-shirts with college logos on them. But King put her foot down when he showed her his mask, which was all black. “I said, that’s a little scary. You could look menacing,” she told her son. When he replied wondering what difference the color of his mask would make, King told him, “Will. It makes a difference. It just does ... Cut to Central Park. Cut to Ahmaud Arbery. Cut to George Floyd.”
“There’s no black mother that hasn’t had the conversation with their son about making the adaption to when you’re stopped, having the right demeanor and behavior and going into that. Whatever is necessary to keep yourself alive. But when you look at that videotape, he did all that,” replied Winfrey, referring to the Floyd case.
“Thank god for the videotape. In this case, the Central Park case, in the Ahmaud Arbery case, people say ‘it’s better.’ Well, racism isn’t better,” said King. “Racism still exists. It’s just on video.