I Am Practicing Patience

[Content Note: Violence; terrorism; racism.]

Earlier today, CNN breathlessly reported the "breaking news" that investigators in the bombing of the Boston Marathon had arrested a suspect who, anchor John King reported, was a "dark-skinned male."

This report, based on anonymous sources, turned out to be inaccurate.

No arrest had been made. No suspect was in custody. Law enforcement had merely identified a person of interest in video footage—a person who might merely be a witness—and there was no information made public about the person's identity.

Never in my life have I been so determined to practice patience. The clamoring expectation that this criminal act of violence is going to be solved immediately is only going to increase the number of people, especially people of color, who are wrongly identified by anonymous law enforcement sources as "suspects," and is only going to increase the amount of deeply harmful reporting.

I am practicing patience.

The bombing of Centennial Park at the Atlanta Summer Olympics took place on July 27, 1996. The person who eventually confessed to the crime, Eric Rudolph, was not even identified as a suspect until almost two years later on February 14, 1998.

In the intervening two years, Richard Jewell, the man who found the pipe bomb left by Rudolph—which exploded before it could be safely detonated, killing one person and wounding 111 others—had his life torn to shreds by accusations that he was the bomber. Those accusations were wrong.

I am practicing patience.

To this day, when I think of the name Eric Rudolph, it is this picture of Richard Jewell that accompanies the name. I swear to fuck that picture was everywhere for something like six solid months after the bombing. Just now, I had to go look up what Eric Rudolph looks like; I couldn't call him to mind at all.

I am practicing patience.

I remember Eric Rudolph's name, but I remember Richard Jewell's face. That is the legacy of irresponsible leaking and reporting, in the aftermath of a public act of violence. That is also the legacy of public impatience, during a time when care must be taken.

It is my job to follow and report news. I understand the urge to want to know, and the urge to want to share. But I am practicing patience.

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