The case of a police using a Taser on a young African-American car passenger became personal for CNN legal analyst Sonny Hostin on Tuesday when her colleague, Paul Callan, tried to claim that abuses of power did not have a racial component.
CNN's Susan Candiotti reported that an Indiana family was suing the Hammond police department for a Sept. 25 traffic stop that ended with officers breaking a passenger-side window and tasing Jamal Jones because he would not produce an ID.
Callan said that police had mishandled the case, but predicted that the city would prevail.
"The cops screwed up here, there are kids in the back seat, they should have handled it differently," he remarked. "But the law, I think, will back them... Because you have an obligation to produce identification. If they tell you get out of the car, get out of the car."
The entire time that Candiotti and Callan were discussing the case, Hostin could be seen quietly seething on the panel.
"Sonny, I have also been told that as a single female driving on a road that if I see someone trying to pull me over, I have the right to continue to a populated area," CNN host Ashleigh Banfield noted. "Because if I am in fear, I don't have to stop on a road in the dark. Is this the same kind of fear? These people were afraid."
"Of course, they were afraid," Hostin said. "And I've got to tell you I'm so upset. I think actually Paul is correct [about his prediction], but this is the hazard of being a black person in the United States today! I mean, there's a family in a car and they are completely complying. You see that [the mother] has called 911. He isn't even driving the vehicle. He has provided several pieces of paper as identification."
"This family was tortured for over 13 minutes. Those children were traumatized. And guess what? The law as it stands right now probably protects the police officers' actions."
"And as a woman of color, I don't know what to do!" Hostin exclaimed in frustration. "Because this could happen to me, this could happen to my child, this could happen to my father, this could happen to my husband. What do we do about the inherent racism over and over and over again in these United States during these traffic stops!"
At that point, Callan tried to argue that there was "no evidence" that the traffic stop was a race-based incident.
"Give me a break!" Hostin shot back. "This is about race. Give me a break, Paul."
"If this was a white family, this would have happened," Callan interrupted.
"This would not have happened!" Hostin said.
"You have no idea," Callan replied.
"I do have an idea," Hostin insisted. "Because I live in the United States and I'm the person I am."
"To turn everything into a racial issue..." Callan complained.
"It's not everything, but this is! This is!" Hostin said. "If you were with your family in your car, this would not have happened. Period."
"I think you're both right," Banfield concluded. "You both have a lot of merit in what you said."