The Chicago police recently charged Empire actor Jussie Smollet with felony charges alleging that he staged a racist and homophobic attack on himself. This marked a significant shift in the trajectory of the investigation of Smollet's account of the events the morning of January 29, 2019. The actor alleged that two assailants beat him, poured bleach on him, put a noose around his neck, berated him with racist and homophobic slurs, while yelling, “this is MAGA country,” an obvious reference to 46-1’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Smollet is an openly gay Black actor on a popular television show, thus his story received widespread media attention and immediate condemnation from a who’s who list of celebrities, activists and politicians. On the heels of Smollet being charged by police, he was hit with a 16 count felony indictment by a grand jury for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
BREAKING: Jussie Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts by grand jury. https://t.co/sYIEZpu4cG— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 8, 2019
Given the astounding twist in the case, right wing pundits, Republican activists and Trump supporters are having a field day scolding the left and all who believed Smollet’s story for 'jumping the gun' and repudiating everything Trump and accusing the orange demagogue of inciting racist and homophobic hate and violence. Smollet’s attorneys Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson have come out in the actor’s defense releasing statements noting that he is “angered and devastated” by his arrest and stating, “Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
Jussie Smollett's lawyers have released a statement slamming Chicago police: Smollett "fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.” https://t.co/ef6w7EOiOB— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) February 22, 2019
If Smollet is found guilty of staging the attack, he should be held fully accountable. Such action is first, unnecessary in a climate of racial polarization and division in America that has produced no shortage of hate filled violence, which validates the notion that Trump's presidency has emboldened a new wave of overt racism. Hate crimes have more than doubled since Trump took office and on any given day, one can view hate filled rants, attacks and confrontations by the MAGA crowd caught on video calling Black people "niggers," telling Latinos to "speak English," or Muslims to "get out of" the country. Second, faking an attack only emboldens those who keep pushing the false narrative that racism is no longer a problem in this nation, a figment in the imaginations of Black people or a tactic used to either ‘play the victim’ or make excuses for failure. While nothing could be further from the truth, a lie told by a high profile celebrity like Smollet only serves to undermine efforts toward seeking redress for legitimate grievances.
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There are two things worthy of highlighting as we consider this case: the reluctance of Black people to readily accept the determinations of a corrupt police department that has lied to cover up the murder and abuse of Blacks in Chicago, and the unfair application of a standard used by white people who refer to the Smollet case to justify an argument that Black people are exaggerating the case of racial oppression in America. Remember, the Chicago Police Department conspired to cover up the Laquan McDonald shooting, the police murder of a 17-year-old Black boy and was determined by the Department of Justice to “have violated the constitutional rights of residents for years, permitting racial bias against Blacks, using excessive force and shooting people who did not pose immediate threats.” So, you’ll have to just excuse the thousands of Blacks who were reticent to immediately accept the conclusions of a corrupt department that has always had a violent history when dealing with its Black residents at face value. As a matter of fact, there are few police departments across the nation that have engendered trust from Black communities. This distrust is embedded in a long history of brutality and bathed in the blood of Black babies, women, men, boys and girls whose lives have ended by the hands of those who were sworn to protect and serve them.
However, even accepting the strong likelihood that Smollet lied, Black people are not having any part of allowing white folks to use this case to negate their experiences. One high profile falsehood does not erase the overwhelming incidents of racist hate crimes perpetrated against Blacks by police and civilians. If we’re going to nullify all claims of racism on the basis of finding a lie in a haystack of racially motivated anti-black violence, let’s apply that same standard to white folks and consider their lies about alleged Black crime, shall we? Let’s start, say, with Carolyn Bryant Donham, the white woman who caused the death of Emmett Till in 1955 by lying that the 14-year-old Black boy visiting family in Mississippi whistled at her. Donham admitted to Timothy B. Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till, that she did not tell the truth when she testified in court that Till assaulted her. Her testimony was the catalyst in the acquittal of her husband and his accomplices in Till’s murder. Donham’s lie was just one link in a never ending chain of lies told on Black people resulting in death or imprisonment.
Whether it was Charles Stuart in Boston murdering his own wife and blaming “a Black man,” Susan Smith drowning her own children and blaming “a Black man,” Amanda Knox blaming “a Black man” of a murder she was initially convicted of, Teresa Klein lying that a 9-year-old Black boy “felt her butt” in a Brooklyn convenience store or Babeque Becky, Permit Patty, Pool Patrol Paula, or any number of white folks calling police on Blacks for walking, talking, having coffee, swimming, driving and breathing while Black, the lies told on Black people allegedly committing crimes are gargantuan compared to the anomaly now known on Twitter as the #JussieSmolletHoax. However, don’t hold your breath looking for white folks willing to tell you that crime committed by Black people are figments of their imagination on the basis of the thousands of white people who constantly lie on us.
Meet Alison Ettel, a white woman in San Francisco who called the police on an 8 year old girl. The child’s supposed crime? Selling water “illegally.”#PermitPatty was in an apparent competition with #BBQBecky over who can call the police on people of color for no good reason. pic.twitter.com/LkXPj898jL— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) June 24, 2018
For far too long, white folks have tried to bury the conversations of racial bigotry, profiling, prejudice and white supremacy by pretending they no longer exist. What we ain’t gonna do is let y’all use Jussie Smollet to continue that ridiculous narrative. Yes Virginia, there is racism. As a matter of fact, it’s is built into the very fabric of America and exists at every level of our society. It has infected every American structure, is systemic, dangerous, and damaging. Not only does racism yet exist and thrive as it always has in this nation, hate crimes have been on the rise, nazis and white supremacists have been emboldened, violence has intensified, and the nation is polarized at a level we haven’t seen since the Civil Rights Movement. I know it’s hard to look at, ugly, painful, and hard to accept, but denying the existence of racism is how America defends itself as a superior nation and justifies looking down on human rights violations of other nations while ignoring its horrific treatment of Blacks and other non-white people. But we’re not going to let y’all use the Smollet case, or any other one for that matter, to continue justifying, ignoring or denying the ugliness of America’s original sin. You’re not going to use Jussie to finger paint the racist reality of these yet-to-be United States of America into a delusional "post racial" society and use the weapon of denial to erase Black pain and legitimate grievances. Regardless of whether Smollet is convicted or acquitted, we ain’t having none of that.