Jussie Smollett has been indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct in relation to orchestrating his hate crime attack.
Smollett’s alleged motive was not a noble cause for the plight of 40% of Black LGBTQ youth who have been bullied on school property.
It was not for the 30% of Black LGBTQ youth wo have been physically threatened because of their LGBTQ identity. It was not for the 90% of the Black LGBTQ youth who have experienced racial discrimination.
Smollett allegedly chose to play upon a critical issue impacting millions of people in hopes of short-sighted monetary gain.
There are far too many victims of hate crimes and crimes against LGBTQIA and/or Black people to warrant any fictitious assistance. There are better ways to use one’s celebrity influence.
In my original post, I challenged Republicans and White Republicans on the MAGA love that lends to hate within their party.
Does Smollett’s indictment prove the innocence of MAGA love? Is MAGA hate nonexistent? Does it prove that God Bless America has a fair and just legal system? Have I repented because I have seen the GOP light (My eyes are struggling to see the Democratic one, so…)?
Although we are at the indictment stage of Smollett’s criminal proceedings, I no longer believe him. I think fabricating hate crimes or lies about hate crimes are detestable. Such abhorrent actions do not erase the existence of hate crimes. Individuals who lie about hate crimes are just as culpable in being part of the problem and not the solution.
In this post, I share 5 reflective thoughts, taking up my original challenge, as well as, Smollett’s actions.
1. Permission to Believe Survivors/Victims
Currently, I do not stand by the “believe all victims” philosophy. I know what it is like to deal with lies because of the color of my skin.
Whenever we believe victims, there is a risk, just as there is a risk in not believing. It is what comes with the territory. I took a risk in believing a “survivor,” just like people took a risk in not believing. Jussie Smollett has done a great disservice to the people he claims to be advocating for.
I think it is more important to look at why we believe what we believe. As for me, I want love and not all of the bigotry promoted and ignored due to political party loyalty.
When Ryan Lochte claimed he was attacked in Brazil, many of us believed him. I doubt the people who want to throw the book at Smollett were as equally upset about the Olympic size racial hoax on an international stage. No outcries for justice when the Brazilian court dismissed his false-report case.
Lochte’s actions do not excuse Smollett’s and vice-versa.
Their actions help reveal the heart of our beliefs about race, gender, sexual orientation, and justice.
I choose to speak up about the hate that comes in the name of God and/or country.
Some folks might take my Sista card because I have yet to watch an episode of Empire. However, one does not have to watch the show to have empathy when hate happens.
To lie about a hate crime is a slap in the face to any who have survived abuse, assaults, and hate crimes or have love ones who have survived the same. As a person who has dealt with Klan threats and other racist threats, I do not take lies about the activity lightly.
Again, I know what it is like to be a victim/survivor.
I have experienced a range of unbelievable and crazy-racist and sexist experiences without camera footage. My word as proof has often been invalidated when it holds up to racist investments in assumed White innocence.
I appreciate raising the issue about the credibility of Smollett because, for quite some time, I have been doing much reflecting about supporting/believing victims along with the reality that people lie (and tell the truth). I hope people who experience “unbelievable” acts against them without camera footage come forward.
I have learned another lesson in projecting what I would do onto someone else. I would not fake a hate crime or any crime. Also, I cannot imagine being a celebrity and throwing it all away to fake a hate crime.
That’s me. Jussie Smollett and I (and millions of other people) are different people.
This situation reminds me of how people rise to status in religious, political, corporate, technological, and artistic communities, while ignoring the development of character. It is not the first or last time, our society will see this phenomenon of people with questionable character who gain influence only to make their fall from grace much greater heights.
Most people with at least an ounce of decency and sense would not work so hard to have such exposure as Smollett to fake a hate crime. Therefore, I do not think it is outlandish for people to think he would not crash and burn this way. We have seen it time and again where people of great influence fall due to greed and other vices.
Here is a lesson: While you are building your resumé, build your soul.
2. Questioning the Existence of MAGA Hate
After reviewing my original post, I do not apologize for believing someone I thought was a victim. I do not apologize for challenging the racism and hate flowing from the GOP because like Prego, it’s in there. I have no apology. To do so would be a lie. And many MAGA folks do not like it when a Black person lies.
Throughout the Smollett investigation, different Republicans and conservatives brought up Tawana Brawley allegations from 1987 and O.J. Simpson. It was almost like they spent years, waiting for the moment a Black person would slip up to say, “Aha! I can justifiably unleash my pent-up bigotry!”
How can you reach back that far and yet act like “let bygones be bygones,” when it comes to public and unapologetic racists in your party? Has this party fought for reparations to African Americans for slavery?
I forgot, certain ones will probably say, “I don’t own slaves.”
Kristen Rimes of South Carolina lied about a Black man in a hoodie attacking her. However, she is not the poster child for racial hoaxes.
If we are going to fervently rail against racial hoaxes, keep the same fire for all people. Since “All Lives Matter,” let us venture into holding more White people to the same legal standards as Black people.
3. The Challenge Remains
As for challenging Republicans and White Republicans, given the overt hate that has been ignored by the GOP, the look in the mirror still applies. The challenge for Republicans still stands, just like the challenge before all of us who are not invested in only seeing the racism in one party.
Republicans pretended to care about the overt racism by Steve King after he narrowly won his last election in a Republican dominant context. After 13 years of the GOP ignoring Steve King’s clear association with White supremacists, both domestic and overseas, what sparked the public change of heart, other than concern for Republican loss in the next election?
After Trump’s electoral win, more individuals have become noticeably emboldened to run for office without hiding their White supremacist ties. The GOP has pandered racists and they love the votes, but it is a bad look when they feel empowered to run with overtly racist platforms.
Jussie Smollett’s inexcusable actions do not prove that the Republican Party is free of White supremacists or a sizeable faction of people with thinly veiled and pronounced hate. I hope they commit as much tenacity to finally distancing and disavowing the ones who they have pandered to for votes.
I doubt this change happens soon because President Trump responded through Twitter by asking Smollett, “What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? No wonder so many of his followers across race only see and identify racism in Black people.
There are Republicans in the minority who challenge the racism within the party. Usually, they are not the ones occupying the mainstream conservative media platforms. I wonder why?
Furthermore, the hate behind the mass shootings in name of MAGA are ever minimized because somehow Jussie Smollett’s actions covers a multitude of sins for people like:
- Cesar Sayoc, who allegedly mailed pipe bombs to various Trump political critics;
- Robert Bowers, who fatally killed 11 individuals in the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting;
- Gregory Bush, who killed two Black shoppers, after failing to access a Black church in Louisville.
As Smollett’s story unraveled, Christopher Paul Hasson, a self-identified White nationalist and U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant, was apprehended for allegedly planning to attack journalists and Democratic politicians.
Interestingly, the GOP does not seem to make time to rally their base to seriously address these matters.
Speaking of politics, a longstanding Alabama newspaper suggested that the KKK to lynch people in effort “to clean out D.C.”
Are racism and homophobia nonexistent in the GOP due to Smollett’s indictment?A “racial hoax” only erases these issues for people across race who want to maintain White supremacy.
Currently, we have conservatives and Republicans who feel more compelled to avoid looking into the mirror because of Jussie’s egregious choices.
Smollett’s actions do not erase the work that still needs to happen.
As long as Black people experience hate crimes, my original challenge still applies. The issues mentioned in the initial post that pertains to being Black and/or LGBTQIA individuals still apply.
The issues pertaining to those in the GOP having a problem with a Black celebrity speaking out about social issues still remain (Cough: Kaepernick).
4. Smollett’s Case Raises the Issue of Criminal Justice Reform
If our reactions stemmed from a desire for justice, then we would advocate ending the disparities in the legal system that tend to be harsher towards African-American people.
Smollett’s alleged actions are untenable and deserve consequence. People who lie need consequences to deter this phenomenon. These behaviors work against to progress just as much as the people who commit the hate crimes. These actions embody the very homophobia and racism they claim to want to eradicate.
Considering that former Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke was recently sentenced to 81 months in the shooting death of LaQuan McDonald, if found guilty, I do not think the consequence for Smollett’s actions should come anywhere close. Prosecuters in LaQuan McDonald’s case had asked for 18-20 years for Van Dyke.
However, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, “the judge cut a break for Van Dyke, sentencing him only on the second-degree murder charge a jury convicted him on, not the 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. That decision allows Van Dyke to serve about half the prison sentence under good-time provisions.”
Only 81 months for the life of a Black youth.
I do not hear or see cries, racist jokes, and memes from MAGA lovers on stiffer sentencing for Van Dyke.
Therefore, I think MAGA lovers should fight for a longer sentence for Van Dyke and/or criminal justice reform, before self-righteously throwing the book at Smollett.
By the way, where were all of the law enforcement leaks and press conferences to declare Van Dyke’s guilt before his indictment or trial?
The Chicago Police Department desperately needs reform.
Despite any anger, outrage, disappointment, or grief about the allegations, so far, this case has been grossly mishandled.
If we want justice, then we would be proponents of a fair and just process.
Prosecutors are more likely to charge people of color with crimes that carry heavier sentences than whites. Federal prosecutors, for example, are twice as likely to charge African Americans with offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence than similarly situated whites. State prosecutors are also more likely to charge black rather than similar white defendants under habitual offender laws.
Despite Smollett’s disturbing choices, if the current justice system hands down a sentence of 81 months for killing a person, the consequences for Smollett should not even come close- no matter how angry or betrayed anyone feels.
Fix the system.
I think looking at the ways our country has handled race and gender hoaxes, beyond Black people who lied, can help with giving a better guide for consequences for Smollett. For example:
- Mary Zolkowski of Michigan, who lied about a Black man raping her, received 45 days, a 2 year probation, and a mental health assessment.
- Remember when Breana Harmon stumbled into a church, claiming that she had been abducted and raped by three black men? I felt horrible for her. She lied, too. Harmon received no jail time, despite pleading guilty to four felony counts.
- Nikki Yovino, a Sacred Heart University Student, received one year in jail for lying about two Black athletes from her school raping her at an off-campus party.
Where is the racial hoax committee when you need them?
Where are the 16 indictments on each of these women? Where is the Tawana Brawley-like uproar?
As for consequences, until the same racial hoax fervor push for criminal justice reform, Smollett should do community service and counseling, and/or pay a fine-something similar to the handling of Stuart Wright’s hate crime in the Chicago Loop. After a guilty plea to a hate crime for defacing the Chicago Loop Synagogue in August 2017, Wright later violated the terms of his probation when he appeared at St. Sabina Church for community service with a neo-Nazi symbol written across his forehead.
Good ol’ Chicago justice.
This is about justice, right?
5. MAGA Country and White Supremacy in Chicago
Racism and homophobia occur in contexts that are not “MAGA” country. I think this country is long overdue to stop propagating the idea that bigotry mostly transpires in certain spaces like south of the Mason-Dixon line.
As a person who grew up in the South and resides in the Midwest, I know that MAGA country is not in the small southern towns. White supremacy resides in the suburbs and inner cities, too.
Let’s take a brief look at the Chicago and surrounding areas:
In Chicago, a White man allegedly punched a woman he did not know in her head and face, yelling, “F-you, immigrant b–.” He punched a responding police officer in the eye, who tried to separate him from the victim, and called her a “Black b—h n—.”
As mentioned earlier, in the Chicago Loop, a White man, who pled guilty to a hate crime in the Chicago Loop, received a slap on the wrist, and still, violated the terms of his probation. His attorney claimed his client’s behavior stemmed from mental illness.
Furthermore, like the rest of the country, Neo-Nazi and other White supremacist recruiting have been ongoing and increasing in Chicago. White supremacist activity has increased in Chicago and around the country.
Chicago’s response to Joshua Beal’s death has brought attention to Mount Greenwood, a community allegedly known for “trying to stay white while keeping Black people out.”
About forty-five miles outside of Chicago, a Neo-Nazi individual, whose group sought to create “ethnostate rape gangs” was arrested on weapons charges.
Further raising questions about its department’s integrity, Hitler /Nazi Era propaganda was played over Chicago Police radios in what new reports called a “rogue transmission.”
Where is the domestic terrorism reform measures and declarations of law and order to clean up these cities from the hate?
I hear too many crickets chirping in both major political parties.
Smollett’s actions do not prove that Chicago and surrounding areas are free from hate crime and overt racism. Well, it does for those who look for any excuse to avoid dealing with the real and present issues within the party and the nation.
Closing: Who Wins?
The egregious and remarkably horrendous behavior, I believe, demonstrated by Smollett does far more harm than good. It takes advantage of the public trust that people will have good faith in those who are victims and survivors of assault or abuse.
It fuels people who use pointing the finger to avoid any way of revisiting their racial perspectives. Smollett’s actions do not prove that the Republican party has not and does not ignore the blatant bigotry that it has pandered to.
The Democrats are not racial promise land, either. I am addressing the GOP in this post like I did in my original.
Instead of using this situation as a way to truly look at the growth in White supremacist organizations, or the increased boldness of them to run on the GOP ticket, this situation has become a win-lose political game for those who are only about party politics.
I am not invested in games of political gotcha, which is why I have issues with racism within both Democrat and Republican parties.
Meanwhile, our legal system is broken. The Smollett case brings this issue to light and simultaneously serves as a distraction from calling for more accountability and reform.
We have a real problem on our hands in this country. Hate and God do not go together. Racism and homophobia still exist.
Who wins from this situation?