Taraji P. Henson shares why she worries about her son every day

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February 07, 2019 08:00 AM

Taraji P. Henson is opening up about the fears she faces as a mother.

The What Men Want actress, 48, sits down with PEOPLE’s editor-in-chief Jess Cagle for the latest installment of The Jess Cagle Interview, where she opens up about raising her son.

“He has a really good heart. It’s just hard to know that the world can pick him out and turn him into a monster at any given moment,” she says. “That’s what I fear, that’s something that I carry — I think every black mother does. All parents worry about their kids, but then when you see the news and you see people getting off for killing innocent children with no weapon it’s like, that doesn’t exempt my son.”

RELATED: Taraji P. Henson Says What Men Want Spotlights the Ultimate Challenge for Working Women

Taraji P. Henson and son Marcell Johnson
Matt Baron/Shutterstock

The Empire actress also revealed how she prepared her son to deal with the worst of racial slurs. (Her costar Jussie Smollett was recently attacked in an apparent hate crime.)

“You know that N-word? It’s just a word, baby. You can’t let people use words to knock you off your block,” she says.

Henson recalls being asked to arrive at the school dean’s office after her son and another student were called in after a heated argument that involved name-calling.

“And there was a time in high school where it happened. And there was a little tussle, but it wasn’t because of that word,” she explains.

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The actress shared the dean read the list of names the two students called each other, one of which was the N-word that the other student called Marcell.

“Then she got to the N-word and she said, ‘The poise that your son showed, he taught me something,'” Henson says. “[The dean] said, ‘Was it the N-word?’ And Marcell said ‘No, that’s just a word. It means you’re ignorant and that has nothing to do with the color of my skin.’ “

What Men Want hits theaters Friday.

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