"Empire" actor, Jussie Smollett, was found guilty on five
of the six counts of felony disorderly conduct for concocting an
elaborate racist and homophobic assault against himself. Each Class 4
felony count can land Jussie in prison and a $250,000 fine.
fan base, needless to say, is flummoxed. So, too, are many Americans,
given how difficult it is to get justice for innocent black men.
hoax exploited black trauma. Smollett testified that his assailants
were white because one purportedly shouted "MAGA country,"
then-President Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great
Again," and both men put a noose around his neck.
hearing the story, Smollett received a groundswell of support,
especially from black Americans.
investigation, however, disclosed the falsehood: Smollett knew the
two men who are Nigerian-Americans - the brothers Olabinjo and
Abimbola Osundairo. One of the brothers appeared on the show "Empire"
with Smollett. The rope to make the noose was bought at a nearby
hardware store. The bruises on Smollet's face and body were
self-inflicted. Smollett paid the two men $3,500 to stage the attack
"to generate sympathetic media coverage."
Chief police, Eddie Johnson, asked during his press conference in
2019: "Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use
the symbolism of a noose to make a false accusation?"
"Empire," Smollett played the gay character Jamal Lyon. In
real life, Smollett is gay, too. How will Smollett's hoax affect
public perception of hate crimes, significantly impacting people of
color in the LGBTQ+ communities?
has essentially set back the progression of both black folk and the
LGBTQ community all while playing right into the hands of MAGA,"
one online comment stated.
called Smollett a "con man." On Fox
Channel's, “The Ingraham Angle," Trump took offense to
Smollett's MAGA lie.
said MAGA country tried to hang him, that MAGA country was bad. And
if somebody, if he were a Republican, if he were on the other side,
he'd be in jail for 25 years for hate crimes."
hoax dredges up the country's horrors of lynching and gay-bashing.
Three hate crime incidents came to my mind immediately: Emmett Till,
James Byrd, and Matthew Shepard. Emmett Till was lynched in Money,
Mississippi, in 1955, and James Byrd in Jasper, Texas, in 1998.
Byrd's killing was called a "lynching-by-dragging." Matthew
Shepard was gay-bashed to death in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998. In
2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James
Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
the onset, Smollett was an unreliable narrator of his attack.
Nonetheless, Smollett is still seen as innocent in the eyes of many
African Americans after the verdict. Despite the many inconsistencies
and gaping holes in Smollett's story, communities of people of color
have every reason not to trust the police findings, especially the
Chicago PD where Smollett's purported hate crime took place. In 2014,
Chicago PD covered up shooting Laquan McDonald. McDonald, 17, was
fatally shot by a white Chicago police officer sixteen times. The cop
reported his life was in danger because McDonald was packing a small
knife with a blade. However, when the police dash-cam video was
released, McDonald was seen walking away when shot. This sort of
ongoing abuse by law enforcement in Black and Latinx communities is
one reason why Smollett was immediately given the benefit of the
Smollett's hoax may affect public perception of hate crimes but
shouldn't. We have seen a rash of white people calling the cops on
blacks. For example, when "Karens" call cops on black
people for "being black" while sitting at Starbucks or bird
watching in Central Park, each case is handled individually, although
the police might have suspicion for the true nature of the call.
hope Smollett will fully grasp the magnitude of both his lie and
crime one day. His actions dishonor black activist Ida B. Wells's
Anti-Lynching Campaign that took afoot in the 1890s, and the National
Lynching Memorial remembering the lives of men and women who were
victims. In 2021, the Senate still has not passed legislation to make
lynching a federal hate crime.
belief that Smollett's actions make it bad for people of color and
LGBTQs to come forth in the future with their reports of hate crimes
and be believed buys too easily into the notion that "one bad
apple spoils the whole bunch." Such a belief, in and of itself,
may well have suckered us all in the beginning with his hoax.
However, not taking each report of a hate crime seriously would be a