Black NYT Columnist Charles Blow on Son's Arrest At Yale: It Makes No Difference That The Officer Was Black


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: One of the most illuminating voices we hear from "The New York Times" Charles Blow. He's talked a lot on this program about his fears for his own son's safety. Well, last Saturday, his fears seemed to come true. His son, a student at Yale, was walking back to his dorm room from the library when a campus police officer stopped him at gunpoint. He hadn't done anything wrong, he did exactly as he was told by the police officer, got on the ground, hands raised. Later he was told he fit the description of a burglary suspect. Eventually he went back to his dorm safely. Here's what Charles wrote in his column. "This is the scenario I've always dreaded. My son at the wrong end of the gun barrel face down on the concrete. What if my son had panicked under the stress, had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be un-pulled, bullets cannot be called back. I'm reminded of what I have always known," he wrote, "but what some would choose to deny, that there is no way to work your way out, earn your way out of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you've done matters less than how you look. "

But here's what Yale said about the incident in the statement that it released: "A Yale police officer detained an African American Yale college student who was in the vicinity of a reported crime and who closely matched the physical description including items of clothing of the suspect, even though the officer's decision to stop and detain the student may have been reasonable, the fact that he drew his weapon during the stop requires a careful review. Charles Blow joins me tonight.

COOPER: When your son called you, told you what happened, first of all, what went through your mind?

CHARLES BLOW, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, tried to figure out he's OK. And both physically and psychologically. And he was shaken. I could tell in his voice that he was shaken and I was trying to make him feel better. You know, to try to kind of stabilize him because I couldn't get there, but I was trying to make sure he was OK first and let him tell me his story.

COOPER: Because you and I have talked so often on this program about conversations you've had with your son.

BLOW: Correct.

COOPER: I'm wondering if that sort of ran through your mind, all those conversations you had had. I mean you said you've been glad you had those conversations ...

BLOW: Right.

COOPER: Upset that he had to utilize some of them.

BLOW: Well, when he told me what he did in response, I realized that he had done all the right things. And, you know, part of you is happy that he remembers and he did it properly and he followed the script. And then part of you is incredibly sad that he would ever have to use it. In the back of your mind, you're hoping against hope that you'll never have to use the advice and then he had to use it.

COOPER: Does the fact that the police officer involved was African- American? Does that change the equation in your mind in any way?

BLOW: It doesn't for me because we don't - when we have those conversations with our kids, we don't say, well, if you run into a white police officer, behave like this and this, and this, and if you run into a black police officer, you don't have to worry about that. Do whatever you want to do, jam your hands into all your pockets, and, you know, jump around and talk back. We talk about the police in general. And I am very happy that when he turned around and saw whoever was with the gun that he didn't behave any differently. He didn't see any difference. He saw a gun, and an officer and he followed the very same script.

You know, a bullet doesn't know the color of the finger that pulls the trigger. It doesn't care. Bullets don't have emotions, they have directions. And I think that we have to as parents, always have to remember that that it's not so clearly delineated in terms of who your kid might run into as an officer.

COOPER: Do you believe race played a role even though the officer was African-American, do you believe race played a role in what happened to your son? Because there - you've come under criticism from some conservative sites, some even call it a race hoax. Because in your original article, you didn't mention that the officer was African- American.

BLOW: Right. Because in my argument, I've been writing about this for probably, years now and I have stopped, almost altogether, mentioning the race of any officers. Period.

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