As a journalist, Gayle King tries to stay in the middle of the road, but she’s hurting over the recent string of racial injustices, especially as the mother of a black man.
King appeared on Thursday’s The Talk and co-hosts brought up how she became emotional on CBS This Morning last week while she first reported on the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody as a Minneapolis officer pinned him down by the neck for nearly nine minutes. That same day, the news show had also reported on NYC birdwatcher Christian Cooper being falsely accused of harassment by a white woman.
Seeing a clip of herself crying, King immediately started crying again, “I haven’t looked at that moment and I’ve tried not to think about it, but it brings back memories.”
She continued, “At the time, we didn’t even know his name,” she said of Floyd, whose death has led to demands for justice in that case as well as an overhaul of the judicial system and racial equality for black Americans. “We didn’t even know his name. We couldn’t even give him the dignity of his name. It was just a black man underneath a car. All we had seen was the knee on his neck — and that was hard enough to see.”
A crying King said going from that report to the one about Cooper was like a punch to the gut.
“You go from that story to ... the Central Park woman who called police about an African [American] man who we all saw wasn’t threatening her or her dog,” King said. “She was practically strangling the friggin’ dog trying to call the police about something that wasn’t true. When you think about that, if it had gone another way, that man — the birdwatcher — could have been George Floyd.”
She said police could have come and thought Cooper was really harassing the woman, saying, “Who do you think they’re going to believe between this white woman and her dog [and a black man]?”
King said she was also feeling emotional because more of Floyd’s story has been revealed since that initial report.
“I start thinking about all kinds of things about that video. That’s what’s making me so emotional,” she told The Talk co-hosts. “That his last words were ‘Mom,’ ‘Mama.’ This is what’s getting me: It goes to the primal instinct that we all have, because your mother is your ultimate protector — and his mother died two years ago.”
She continued, “We didn’t know that at the time. When I got emotional, I didn’t know that. But we know that now. You know what else we know? We know that it wasn’t just the one officer on his neck. When you see the other video from the other side, one was on his back and another was holding his legs down. This man was handcuffed. And this all started over a possible counterfeit $20 bill. We don’t even know if he knew it was counterfeit.”
She said, “The details are so horrific and shocking.”
Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck, has had the charges against him elevated to second-degree murder. The other three officers — who all lost their jobs but were previously uncharged — face counts of aiding and abetting murder.
King said that the injustices have her worried about her L.A.-based children, especially son Will, 33. (She also has a daughter, Kirby.)
“I worry for him being a black man — period,” King said. “Another friend of mine who has a son Will’s age called crying, saying, ‘Mom, we do all the right things. We’re educated. We’re employed. We’re good human beings. We’re good to people. We do all the rights things and still we are just considered suspects or prime targets.’ And now everybody’s so amped up about everything. I do. I do worry a lot.”
King added, “But people will say to you ... welcome to being black in America. This is not new ... but maybe — just maybe — this will be change. Maybe this will be the case. Maybe this will be the one. If something doesn’t change after this, shame on us.”
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