Jussie Smollett cried wolf. The allegation was serious, extremely serious, and the news spread like wildfire. With a battered face, a noose around his neck and claims that bleach had been poured on him by two masked men, it smelled like a hate crime … and that’s what he told the police. And justifiably so, Chicago police were on it, not only because of Smollett’s fame and popularity but, once again because it was an alleged hate crime – one that that should be dealt with swiftly and mightily.
This is the final day of Black History Month, a period when Black people commemorate their achievements but also are painfully reminded that they were victims of rampant crimes against humanity — enslavement, whippings, torture, rapes and lynchings — that were waged upon them without conscience or forethought. Oh, but then again, these people were not considered human and their lives meant no more than the price for which they were paid.
Smollett’s allegation was severe, and another painful reminder that such inhumane acts are not behind us. Sadly, the vast spotlight on his story and its questionable validity are a distraction to the true story of rising incidents of hate crimes across the country. His honesty has been questioned and the resources needed to investigate his claims, if untrue, should have been directed elsewhere. For now, this is Smollett’s, Chicago’s and America’s latest Black history story.
Meanwhile, the FBI has declared hate crime as the highest priority within its Civil Rights Division. Their focus is on crimes in which perpetrators acted based on a bias against the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin. With the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, the FBI also added investigations of crimes committed against those based on biases of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.
The FBI reported a 17 percent increase in hate crimes in 2017 with 7,175 reported hate crime incidents. Those increases were represented among the LGBTQ community, as well as among other demographics including both anti-Black and anti-Jewish hate crimes.
So, while popular culture ponders Smollett’s motivations, let it not be forgotten that America stands as a nation divided whose divisions exemplify unquestionable acts of hate. Don’t be distracted or blinded by the stardom. Instead, determine your role to ensure that such future allegations are unimaginable.