Jussie Smollett, Why??

I believe that as a social justice activist, you are a role model for those you are empowering and you have an obligation to conduct yourself ethically and set a good example for those looking up to you.

A few weeks ago, “Empire” actor and musician, Jussie Smollett reported to Chicago police that he was attacked by two white perpetrators who were yelling racial and homophobic slurs while yelling “This is MAGA (Make American Great Again) Country” which was a campaign slogan used by President Donald Trump.  He states that these men beat him, put a noose around his neck and threw bleach on him.

A precursor to this attack was a threatening letter that was sent to the Chicago set of “Empire” just days before.  The letter contained a white powdery substance and depicted a stick figure with a noose around its neck with the words “You will die black fag” on it.  Days later, the attack happened.

According to police reports filed by Smollett, the attack happened on January 29 at approximately 2:00 A.M., as he walked home from a local Subway sandwich shop after grabbing some food.

Jussie Smollett is an African American man who is openly gay and an activist for social justice.  Because of the comments made by the attackers and the content of the letter, this attack was taken very seriously and Jussie Smollett became a victim of a hate crime.

As news of this hate crime broke on main stream media and social media, Jussie immediately had the support of sympathizers, fans, Hollywood celebrities, LBGTQ community & civil rights activists.  Frankly most of the country was outraged – and with good reason!  Before knowing all of the facts, Left-wing politicians shared their disgust for this “modern day lynching” and took the opportunity to make it more political and racial, pointing out that these attackers were white Trump supporters.

As more details of the attack unfolded, conservatives became suspicious of his story and claimed it was made up.  #JussieSmollett became a trending topic of conversation on Twitter and other social media outlets with hatred being spewed back and forth between political parties, races and LGBTQ supporters/non supporters causing deeper divide and outrage.

In the weeks following the attack, it was becoming more and more evident there were holes in Jussie’s story and things were not adding up.  Chicago police uncovered overwhelming evidence that Jussie Smollett planned his attack and paid two “Empire” extras to carry out the hoax.

Subsequently, on February 21,  Chicago police charged Jussie Smollett with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report which could land him 1 – 3 years in prison.

Smollett has been outspoken politically and was a social activist devoted to such causes as:

  • H.I.V./AIDS prevention in the Black community
  • Ending apartheid
  • Black Lives Matter movement & social justice

On January 22, Jussie was inducted in the 5000 Role Models of excellence project which is a mentoring program for boys of color.  He served on the board of the Black AIDS Institute (BAI), focused solely on ending the AIDS epidemic.  Jussie Smollett was a great role model and positive example of how to be black, gay, proud and successful.

When I heard the news of a hoax, it was like a punch in the gut.  There are so many levels of wrong here.  Jussie Smollett has single-handedly undermined the important work civil rights activists and LGBTQ communities have been fighting for.

It is an absolute travesty that he used the pain and anger of racism & homophobia to promote his own agenda and career.  This stunt has caused more division and disappointed so many that looked up to him – especially young African American males.  In the midst of black history month, he caused a distraction from the African American struggles that should have been recognized and the triumphs that should have been celebrated.

This was a deliberate and planned event by a well-respected actor and social justice activist that had so much potential to empower today’s youth of color.  Social justice, by it very definition is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society – nothing that Jussie did was fair or just to society.

Why this hoax is so destructive:

  • Creates skepticism of real hate crimes
  • Discourages real victims of racial violence and hate crimes to step forward
  • Introduces possibility for more hoaxes
  • Causes more division
  • Ignites a false sense of legitimacy to racism and homophobia
  • Damages credibility of activists
  • Embarrassment to community and to victims
  • Waste of law enforcement resources

Social activists, who initially were in support of Jussie, spoke out against him saying that he has set their cause back and that he should be held accountable.

Today, a press conference was held regarding the arrest of Jussie Smollett. Eddie T. Johnson, the Chicago Police Superintendent shared his heart-felt and powerful sentiment.  Before even starting the press conference, he stated that he “wished that the families of gun violence got this much attention”.  He talked about being a black man born and raised in Chicago, and seeing a history of racial divide and disparity.  He asked the question, “How can somebody use the symbolism of a noose (with the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol) and see an opportunity to make false accusations to further his own public profile?”  The comments by Eddie Johnson were exactly what this country needed to hear.  No matter your political affiliation, or what race or gender you are, his sentiment spoke to everyone.

Now is the time for Jussie to speak up and face accountability for his actions.  It may not undo the damage that was done by “crying wolf”, but it may help those who felt duped to heal and move forward.

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