Actress Daniele Watts speaks about civil rights

The Gould School of Law held a panel discussion on civil rights on Monday featuring actress and alumna Daniele Watts, who was involved in a controversy after she was arrested for lewd conduct in a September encounter with police. Watts, who graduated in 2007 with a degree in theatre, is known for her cinematic roles in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and the Weeds television series.

Gray area · Watts, pictured, said that she and her boyfriend have often been unfairly targeted by police because she is black and he is white. - Jessica Zhou | Daily Trojan

Gray area · Watts, pictured, said that she and her boyfriend have often been unfairly targeted by police because she is black and he is white. – Jessica Zhou | Daily Trojan

On Sept. 11, Watts and her boyfriend Brian Lucas were mired in controversy after Watts was arrested. Watts and Lucas were in a parked vehicle near CBS Studios in Studio City, California, when the Los Angeles Police Department received a call reporting lewd acts, specifically that a black woman in floral shorts and a white man were “having sex in the vehicle with the door open.” The police officer who responded to the call asked the couple to provide him with identification to which Watts responded, based on a tape released by TMZ, “Do you know how many times the cops have been called … just because I’m black and he’s white?”

In the aftermath of the arrest, Watts alleged that she was only “making out” with her partner and claimed that the police had targeted her because of her race.

During the discussion, Shana Redmond, associate professor of American studies and ethnicity, described how black women’s sexuality has been criminalized. Redmond revealed that the NAACP told Watts to apologize to the LAPD.

Assistant professor of history Diana Williams asked the panel about what kinds of sex society deems offensive. She said that socially accepted couples face less scrutiny when engaging in public display of affection.

Watts’ talk revolved around empathy. As a theatre major, she described how during her undergraduate studies, one of her main objectives was to “put herself in someone else’s shoes” and try to feel what it’s like to be somebody else.

Watts said that on a previous encounter with the police in the city of Loma Linda, she and her partner were approached by officers because of a report of a “suspicious black and white couple.” After the incident, she and her partner had agreed to deal with such interactions in a graceful and respectful manner.

Watts also said, however, that the Sept. 11 incident was the fourth time she was forced to deal with the police since she shaved her head. She admitted that during the past interactions with the police, she had attempted to be as calm and polite as possible.

Watts also stated during the discussion that the police sergeant on the scene told her boyfriend that “[Watts] needs to learn she doesn’t get to dictate what happens.”

Jacob Bradley, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said that he was trying to be as objective as possible and that attending the discussion provided him with a more fair view of the events.

“When I listened to the audio recordings, she sounded blameworthy, but I didn’t know that the police had edited the recordings before it was given to TMZ. Now I feel I have more of a balanced view on the incident,” Bradley said.

The panel discussion received a significant amount of media attention and reporters from local networks, including CBS and KCAL9, were present for the event.

Watts thanked the panel and the guests for coming, as she said discussions like these help raise awareness of racial issues in America.

5 replies
  1. maroon5five
    maroon5five says:

    Since she, and others, have been racially profiled in the past, that gives her the right to slander people now and not apologize when she is wrong?

  2. SomeOtherDude
    SomeOtherDude says:

    Assuming the author aspires to be a decent writer/reporter, at least get the facts straight. Watts was NOT arrested.

  3. M2000
    M2000 says:

    Stupid racist hypocrite, you were caught in a lewd act, gee, why didn’t Bill or Monica get away with it? Because they were white, maybe if they were not they could have behaved like you…

  4. Thekatman
    Thekatman says:

    Ms. Watts was very disrespectful and offensive to the police officer, who was calm and nother offensive. Listen to the entire tape and you’ll understand why she is a racist nerself, and uses the race card so much that he t accusations now, haver become meaningless. Because of the content of her character, I would not want my son to date her.

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