In a time when racial tensions seem to perpetually run high, conflicts rarely end peacefully. That makes every instance where we can find the strength to forgive each other all the more welcome. Taraji P Henson, star of the hit show “Empire,” controversially announced last week that she would send her son to Howard University as opposed to the University of Southern California, after alleged instances of racial profiling near the latter’s campus.


In response, the Glendale Police Department released dashboard camera footage of an encounter between her son and a patrolman; the officer not only treats him with respect but also with a great deal of leniency. This development quickly spurred Henson to apologize via Instagram. Her apology read as follows:


Henson's apology as it appeared on her Instagram profile (

Henson’s apology as it appeared on her Instagram profile (

“I would like to publicly apologize to the officer and the Glendale Police Department. A mother’s job is not easy and neither is a police officer’s. Sometimes as humans WE over react without gathering of the facts. As a mother in this case I over reacted and for that I apologize. Thank you to that officer for being kind to my son.


Taraji P Henson”


From a public relations point of view, certain aspects of the apology could be considered a victory. Henson seems to have gotten ahead of controversy by responding to the issue quickly. In many cases, silence in the face of controversy has acted as the downfall of many public figures. People generally dislike the suspense of waiting, giving them time to create the story for themselves. By acknowledging the situation, she has improved public perception of herself.


She also gave a very direct, succinct apology, free from “fluff” and distracting language. Although it may seem counterintuitive, saying less in one’s apology resonates more with the public. She admitted her remorse, called for understanding of her motherly instincts on the matter, and that was it.


Henson’s decision to provide a written apology to the matter could ultimately serve as a detriment. While timeliness and word choice are important to a public apology, perceived sincerity is just as vital. The picture she posted comes across as informal. Henson also capitalized the word “WE” in the message, indicating that while she may be responsible for this incident to a certain degree, she is not the sole cause. By doing this, she leaves room for finger pointing and blame assigning to continue.


The Glendale Police Department has accepted her apology, stating that they are carefully looking into the matter.


What do you think of Taraji Henson’s apology? How could she have improved her message? Comment or tweet @connerws