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Gayle King Talks Racism in America and Worrying About Her Son (Exclusive)

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Gayle King is opening up about some of the specific fears she's had while raising a black son in America. ET's Kevin Frazier spoke to the 65-year-old journalist Tuesday about the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd.

King said that while racism is not new, it's now being caught on tape in a way that hasn't happened before. She specifically talked about the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot in Georgia. Arbery was jogging Feb. 23 when he was confronted by 64-year-old Gregory McMichael and his son, 34-year-old Travis McMichael, who followed him in their truck. Arbery's death hit King hard, given that she has two children -- 32-year-old daughter, Kirby, and 33-year-old son, Will Jr. -- whom she shares with her ex-husband, William Bumpus.

"So, when you talk about the anger, you know, and you talk about Ahmaud Arbery, who was just jogging -- in 2020 -- jogging through a neighborhood where people thought, 'Well, he looks suspicious,'" she says. "You know, you look at that tape -- many people went in that house where the ... neighborhood vigilantes decided to take matters into their own hands. There's video of many white people walking in the house, strolling around, looking around. Ahmaud Arbery goes in the house and he comes up jogging and they decide he's a suspect, that's a problem."

"I mean, I now worry about Will, who is 33 years old, walking his freaking dog in the neighborhood, you know, because I think everybody is on such a hair trigger these days," she says. "And you know, I don't want my son, your son or anybody's son, really, to be a part of a national conversation where there are pictures shown nationwide and everybody knows their name and their circumstances where they're dying. But statistics do show that more unarmed [black] men are killed by police officers than any other group, and that is very frightening to me."

King then shared the conversation she had with her son about the current events.

"So yeah, that choked me up because it's still going on, but I think maybe, just maybe -- and I know we've heard this before, I even said to Will, 'Will, I feel this is different, this feels different to me, this looks different to me' -- and he said, 'You know what, I'll believe it's different when it's different, because right now, it isn't different,'" she shares. "Well, you know, I feel a little more optimistic than that, but he does raise a very good point. "

Still, amid such difficult times, King does have hope, especially when she sees the types of people protesting police brutality and systemic racism.

"I'm starting to feel a little lighter 'cause I'm really encouraged, really encouraged, by the diversity of the protesters, by the length of the protests, and that 12, 13 days out people are still on the street because they know there is still so much work to be done," she says. "And I do get encouragement from that. But on top of that, though, we're still mourning the death, a horrible death, that we all witnessed with our own eyes, of George Floyd. And I'm still haunted by that."

King and her best friend, Oprah Winfrey, have been discussing the current protests and calls for change in important television specials. King anchored CBS's Justice for All, a CBS News special on racism and police brutality, which aired Tuesday. Meanwhile, Winfrey's two-part OWN special, Where Do We Go From Here?, also aired Tuesday and continues its second part on Wednesday.

King talked about covering such an important topic as a black woman.

"I always say when I sit on the set of CBS News that I have a front row seat to history, and it feels more important now than ever before because I do think sometimes the conversations are very nuanced, and I do think it's important to point out different things that people might not have noticed before," she says. "I just know my presence in being in a meeting, to be honest with you -- 'Why don't we cover X, Y, and Z, or has anybody ever thought of reaching out to blah, blah, blah?' Listen, we have a really great team, but that's why it is important to have diversity at the table wherever your table is, and so I feel very blessed and very honored to have one of those seats."

"Oprah and I aren't the only ones talking about this," she adds. "Everybody is having this conversation, and ... there's a hunger for information about this. And that to me is very satisfying and very gratifying. So, I say the more people that are listening, the more educated people can be, the better off we all are."

King shares that she and Winfrey are working on a project for O, The Oprah Magazine, and that the conversation about racism is far from over.

"Listen, this is not the end," she says. "We're not gonna do one special and then say 'done.' It's really just the beginning of the conversation, because there's a lot of work to be done. So this is not the end of a conversation."

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Gayle King and her son Will Bumpus attend the Broadway opening night for

Byline

Antoinette Bueno

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 16:18