Monday, May 20, 2024

Jussie Smollett lets down Chicago

Jussie Smollett has disappointed minority communities across the United States. It’s as simple as that. 

If the back and forth coverage of the Jussie Smollett case hasn’t reached your ears yet, it’s important that you understand what has taken place and the importance of every puzzle piece in this gigantic, disgusting mess.

On Jan. 22, 2019, according to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Police Department was investigating claims by “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett that he was attacked by two men after 2 a.m. in Chicago when leaving a Subway restaurant. 

Smollett claimed that they approached him, yelling racial and homophobic slurs, shouted “This is MAGA country!” hit him and wrapped a rope tied like a noose around his neck. This attack came after a letter was delivered to the production studio where “Empire” is shot that contained similarly threatening language. 

When the news of Smollett’s alleged attack hit social media, the messages of support and concern came in like tidal waves. Everyone from U.S. Senator Kamala Harris to Ellen DeGeneres spoke about the incident online and shared support for Smollett. Everyone was on his side. 

Then the narrative started to change.

The commentary online shifted. People were now saying that they believed the attack hadn’t taken place. Smollett did an interview with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America where he addressed those claims. 

He said, “You do such a disservice when you lie about things like this. I’ve heard that it was a date gone bad, which I so resent that narrative. I’m not gonna go out and get a tuna sandwich and a salad to meet somebody. That’s ridiculous. And it’s offensive.”

Things moved quickly after that. Rumors were flying that Smollett’s character would be written off “Empire” while the Chicago Police Department was investigating exactly what took place and interviewing persons of interest. 

Here’s where we stand now: On Feb. 21, Smollett surrendered himself to Chicago Police, was booked and had his mug shot taken. He was charged with filing a false police report now that evidence had surmounted that proved he had arranged the staging of his attack. 

The image of Smollett, defeated, standing in front of a white brick wall of the police station spread around social media like rapid fire. 

In a matter of a month, the story of the attack had done a complete 180 and Smollett was no longer the victim but the perpetrator. 

It is important to understand that Smollett is a member of two minority communities: the black community and the LGBT community. 

The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States, reported a 17 percent increase in hate crimes against the LGBT community based on FBI reported data.

NBC News reported that in November 2018 that black Americans are the most frequently reported group for victims of hate crimes. Janell Ross wrote, “violence, property crimes, threats and other offenses inspired by racial animus amounted to the most frequent type of hate crime reported in the FBI’s most recent tally of bias crimes. In fact, black Americans have been the most frequent victims of hate crime in every tally of bias incidents generated since the FBI began collecting such data in the early 1990s.”

The facts and figures are right there. Hate crimes are prevalent with LGBT and black people as victims. Smollett crying wolf draws attention away from the real crimes taking place every day. 

For Smollett to go on national television and declare it offensive for people not to believe him doesn’t make sense. It’s offensive for him to call victim simply because he believed he wasn’t being paid enough. 

Hate crimes are a serious matter and in a more political separated environment, it is important that we separate the real from the fake.

In his statements to the press on the investigation, Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson summed up the magnitude of Smollett’s actions. “I’m left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile? How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”

The real crimes identify the cracks in our culture where we don’t have respect for each other. 

The fake crimes separate us further as it turns into a blame game and who is right and wrong. In this case, the falsity of these crimes have allowed for unfair criticism of the city of Chicago and the treatment of its citizens. 

As a black LGBT individual with a following and fame, Smollett would have had the star power to advocate for his communities and bring attention to matters of discrimination and access.

Jussie Smollett has let his communities down in a time where they needed him most. 

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