We live in a society where violence against people of color and LGBTQ folks is on the rise. That is serious and unacceptable. This reality transcends the Jussie Smollet case, and the real culprits are not people making false allegations but people perpetrating very real crimes — most of them unsolved — on a routine basis.
On January 29, ”Empire” series television actor Jussie Smollet claimed to have been the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime near downtown Chicago. According to the actor and advocate, his assailants punched him, threw a rope around his neck, doused him with a liquid thought to be bleach, shouted racist and homophobic epithets, and declared “this is MAGA [Make America Great Again] country,” alluding to the term used by Trump and his supporters. Several weeks later, after an extensive investigation, the Chicago Police Department arrested Smollet for allegedly filing a bogus police report and staging the attack himself for publicity and a possible boost to his salary. Smollet, who maintains his innocence, now faces felony charges and has become the subject of late night television jokes. Social media has also been awash with tweets and posts deriding Smollett.
This case is deeply disturbing and admittedly confusing on many levels. Even as many of the specifics in this case are called into question, lawyers and reporters caution us to wait for all the facts to come out, and to presume Smollet’s innocence until they do. Like most people, with limited information, I am both skeptical and saddened by all the narratives and counter-narratives we have heard thus far. Any fraudulent claim of racial and/or homophobic violence is dangerous and hurtful because it undermines the believability of the many legitimate claims that might come in its wake. I am not sure if Smollet is telling the truth about this particular incident or not.
What I am sure of is that this kind of attack, in Trump’s America, could indeed have happened in the way Smollet…