Empire star Taraji Henson in the same week experienced the heights of her celebrity powers—and she also felt the unfortunate negative effects that can come from her celebrity. Henson decided to apologize this weekend for accusing the Glendale Police Department of racial profiling.
As her show Empire continued to break television viewership records, Henson got an avalanche of coverage when she said during a magazine interview that her son had been racially profiled when he went to visit University of Southern California as a prospective student.
It was a perfect illustration of how easy it is for celebrities to forget what life is like for regular Black folks. Just one mention in a magazine about her son’s unpleasant racial experience and the USC chief of police was vowing to conduct a full investigation into the incident. It appeared to be an example of a big-name celebrity getting the kind of resolution that’s not really available to the rest of us.
But when the actual video of the incident got released, things got a lot more complicated for Henson.
The Glendale officer claimed he was trying to give Henson’s son, Marcell Johnson, a break. The video appeared to confirm that, in addition to showing that the officer likely couldn’t know the young man’s race when he pulled him over.
When the officer approached the driver’s side window, Johnson admitted to the officer that he had marijuana in the car and added that he had a prescription for it. He was unable to provide any proof of the prescription but the officer encouraged him to bring the prescription to court in order to have the charges dropped.
“I’m not going to give you a citation for running that yellow because that would actually put a moving violation on your driving license, and you are going to have to go traffic school and all that stuff, so I am helping you by not giving you a violation on it,” the officer explains. “All I am going to do is take the weed from you.”
The footage was enough for Henson to post an Instagram message that contained considerable contrition.
“I would like to publicly apologize to the officer and the Glendale Police Department,” she said in an Instagram message with the hashtag #TurningANegativeIntoAPositive #LoveTarajiPHenson. “A mother’s job is not easy and neither is a police officer’s. Sometimes as humans we overreact without gathering all the facts. As a mother in this case, I overreacted and for that I apologize. Thank you to that officer for being kind to my son.”
When officers searched Johnson’s car, they found hash oil, marijuana and a grinder, in addition to a knife they determined to be legal, according to report. Since the youth told one of the officers he had smoked marijuana two hours before driving, a sobriety test was performed, which he passed.
The entire episode couldn’t have been pleasant for Henson—but was probably even more uncomfortable for Marcell when he had to face his mother after that dashcam footage was released.