Hoax or no hoax, Jussie Smollett’s story can be a lesson to everyone
On Jan. 29, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was allegedly brutally attacked by two masked individuals in the city of Chicago. The beating went as far as Smollett finding himself on the brink of death, as a noose was put around his neck, and his ribs were fractured. Smollett later went on to say that both men were yelling, “this is MAGA country,” along with racist and homophobic slurs, ultimately branding the attack as a hate crime, according to The Washington Post. However, a spokesperson from the Chicago Police Department informed many news outlets that “there is no report of that being said,” according to Complex. And so, investigations got to the bottom of this alleged hate crime.
While the Chicago Police Department further studied the case, Smollett received an impressive amount of online support from many Hollywood stars outraged by this supposed hate crime against Smollett’s race and homosexuality.
On Feb. 20, however, Smollett was allegedly indicted for fabricating the entire story, of staging the attack, and was taken into custody, according to Esquire. Dissatisfied with the amount of money he was making on Empire, he supposedly created this entire scenario in order to gain sympathy from Hollywood producers and actors. While his involvement in the “hate crime” is still to be determined, as there are a number of news outlets with different theories pouring out everywhere, it is the reaction from the masses that I wish to discuss.
I personally remained skeptical about Jussie Smollett from beginning to end. I was particularly taken aback by his “I’m the gay Tupac” claim, at a performance on the Troubadour stage in West Hollywood, according to Complex. His insistence on advertising the event led me to question his sincerity, and ultimately, the truth behind what happened. When news broke out that he made up the whole story, I was not surprised, but rather disappointed to the core. And now, I’m just completely confused as to how to feel.
However, Jussie Smollett is not what angers me, because he is not the first, nor the last person of colour to use their minority status to gain stardom, or sympathy for that matter. Back in 2016, after Donald Trump was appointed president, a Muslim student at the University of Michigan claimed she was followed by an intoxicated man urging her to remove her hijab, lest he sets it on fire. As the investigation went on, the absence of any evidence rendered this story false, according to CNN.
Smollett is not the first one to cry wolf and diminish people in real danger. Smollett is just one of the many examples that white supremacists use to make their cases. When they see instances where hate crimes happen to be hoaxes, they use it as a way to push their own narratives about minorities and “social justice warriors” who are all just “too sensitive” and have victim mentalities.
But, if Smollett really did plan the entire attack, then I by no means blame anyone who passes judgment onto him.
What hurts the most about Smollett’s alleged actions is that he has completely shut a door already ajar to minorities’ voices. It is by no means a secret that minorities face many obstacles when it comes to confessing hate crimes and sexual abuse. I go as far as saying that white men and women have a higher chance of being believed when coming forth with sexual abuse stories than people of colour. Nations are tainted with racial biases. It is unfortunately innate, and it’s going to take more than a few marches to get rid of this bad seed.
When the Jussie Smollett hashtag was trending all over Twitter, the amount of hate speech I saw was intense—specifically coming from white supremacists. Men, and women with MAGA all over their profiles were claiming that hate crimes are nothing but another form of fake news.
While I don’t believe this was ‘fake news,’ seeing a gay African-American man like Jussie Smollett be willing to compromise his own community for personal greed makes me wary of the world we live in. For a minority to put other minorities at risk of further discrimination is not only bewildering, it is disgusting.
Hate crimes are not a joke. They are not hoaxes, and it is never okay to use them for personal gain. Hate crimes are a real issue, and if we’re not careful about how we use those words, we will forever fall prey to white supremacist discourse of ‘fake news’ that pushes the idea that leftists or people of colour are too sensitive, and that there is no racism in America—which is perhaps the biggest hoax out there.
Graphic by @spooky_soda