Jussie Smollett’s conviction, or lack thereof, has given the public yet another reason to distrust the justice system and highlight its worse attributes. With all the evidence, between confessions from his “attackers,” surveillance video and a canceled check, it’s pretty clear that he’s guilty, but he’s not facing any repercussions for it—and that made people angry and frustrated with the state of the world as well as the justice system.
When I first heard Jussie Smollett’s case, I was disgusted. This gay, black man—two of the most dangerous things to be in this world —viciously attacked. There’s no way around it: this was a hate crime. When I saw his statement afterwards, I pitied him and was angered.
He was a broken man, broken by hatred and bigotry. Then, the rumors started. The men were wearing MAGA hats. They called him slurs while they beat him. Smollett himself said that the men yelled “this is MAGA country,” and put a noose around his neck. As the rumors grew, so did the support for Smollett. People rallied around him. Then suddenly, evidence started coming out against him. Soon, everyone knew Jussie Smollett staged his attack.
My pity turned in to unbridled anger when, all of the sudden, charges were dropped. This man, who garnered pity and anger for hatred and ignorance, had the world suddenly turn on him as quickly as they opened their arms for him.
Smollett faked his own hate crime, and used his identity as a minority to garner support and popularity. And he got away with it. Why? How? And what does this mean going forward?
Simply speaking, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge Jussie Smollett. However, that’s not really the whole story. Looking further into it, Smollett has privilege that other people don’t: he’s a celebrity. He has the money to pay for a good defense, he has connections with people in power. It shows the problem both with the world of celebrities, a world where they can commit crimes and walk away without any type of punishment – as well as a problem with the justice system and its bias for people like celebrities, politicians and other higher-ups.
There are dangerous implications that come with faking a hate crime, especially when the report of “the attack” involved Trump. This case will be used to defend those who don’t believe survivors of all kinds of things, especially hate crimes. It will be a thing to go back to whenever there is a crime of hatred and ignorance. “Remember Jussie Smollett?” they’ll say. “We can’t believe everyone.” Trump has already commented on it, calling it “an embarrassment to the nation,” and is being accused of playing racial politics. Even the mayor of Chicago commented that Trump should “sit this one out.” Smollett hasn’t only hurt himself and the people around him in this case, but he has hurt victims of hate crimes and people in the future that will speak out about these crimes.
Don’t let this stunt deter you from believing victims of hate crimes.
Although this case has garnered distrust for not only Smollett but the justice system, too; don’t let this stunt deter you from believing victims of hate crimes. This is not an excuse to hesitate to support survivors. The amount of true crime compared to falsely reported crime makes it look like a grain of sand in an ocean. Smollett used integral parts of his identity — being gay and black — to fuel the reactions about the “attack.” Whether he knows it or not, Smollett has caused damage to the black community and the LGBTQ+ communities.
The case read like a television show, not unlike the one Smollett himself stars in. A shocking act, an unforeseen twist. But, unlike TV shows, the ending is entirely dissatisfying. There’s no clean-cut answer and no neat wrap-up. Jussie Smollett’s reputation has taken a severe blow, one he may never come back from. The way the case was handled has given us another reason to distrust the justice system. And the people involved in the staged attack never got any form of formal justice—and they got off, legally speaking, scot-free.
Alison Roller is a third-year student English major who minors in journalism. AR875447@wcupa.edu