What We Should Take Away From the Jussie Smollett Case


Courtesy people.com

Olivia Biel , Staff Writer

Most have probably heard about the Jussie Smollett case by now. If not, here’s a summary.

Summary of the Case

In late January, the “Empire” star reported getting attacked by two men at around 2 a.m. after getting food. He said they called him racist and homophobic slurs, and one yelled “this is MAGA country,” referring to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan. Smollett also alleged that one of the men poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck.

While many cast suspicion on the report, Smollett also received plenty of support and sympathy on and offline. What followed, however, were reports from the Chicago Police Department that strongly suggest that Smollett staged his attack.

Two brothers, who worked with Smollett in the past on “Empire,” admitted to accepting money from the actor to stage the attack. Police said they have the check they were paid with. The hardware store where the rope was purchased was identified, and video footage shows the brothers in the store. Police said they have phone call records and text messages between the brothers and Smollett.

Late last month Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson concluded that Jussie Smollett staged the attack to gain sympathy from the public in hopes of a raise because he was unhappy with his salary.

“Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” he said.

Though he repeatedly denied that the attack was a hoax, and his lawyers contend that he was not given the presumption of innocence, Smollett eventually turned himself in and was given a felony charge of disorderly conduct. He was released from jail on a $100,000 bond.

What to Take Away

If you are angry at Smollett, you should be. Under no circumstances is it okay to fake a hate crime. If you think you should never have had or expressed sympathy for him when he reported the attack, you’re wrong.

It is possible to carefully examine the facts while also having sympathy for someone who says that they have been attacked in a hate crime. As long as we are not pointing fingers and not deliberately spreading misinformation, no harm is being done.

By expressing sympathy for victims, we let them know that there is a community they can feel safe with regardless of race, gender, sexuality or religion. We let them know that despite the hate and violence against the group or groups they are a part of, there are people who will love and support them.

We cannot use the case of Jussie Smollett alone to say the person is definitely faking a hate crime report for attention or to advance a political agenda. Hate crimes are rarely faked. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University said that less than 1 percent of hate crimes are faked, according to the New York Times.

Smollett was simply one of the outliers, and he gained much attention due to his celebrity status. His hoax does not make real hate crime victims any less credible. In November 2018, the F.B.I. released a very real report showing a 17-percent increase in hate crimes since 2016. The primary motivators were race and ethnicity, followed by sexual orientation and religion.

We cannot forget the very real Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. We cannot forget the very real shooting of two black people outside a Kroger supermarket in Kentucky that same week. As fake as the “MAGA country” comment was, the former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke’s calling the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia a fulfillment of Donald Trump’s vision for America is very real.

And those are only parts of a much bigger picture. A very real picture.