Smollett Lied, But Hate Crimes Are Real

Jussie Smollett’s assault may have been a hoax, but the hate crimes happening all around the world are very real.



After bonding out, "Empire" television actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Feb. 21, 2019. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Jenna Barackman, Reporter

“It’s the attackers, but it’s also the attacks,” “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett said. “It’s not that you don’t believe this is the truth; you don’t even want to see this is the truth.”

 Smollett faces up to three years in prison after he allegedly faked an assault carried out by two men wearing Trump propaganda in Chicago. Smollett claimed that his attackers shouted racial and homophobic slurs, put a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him, according to CNN. Smollett is currently under arrest and awaits trial for felony charges for filing a false police report.

Smollett’s actions are undeniably despicable; he attempted to take advantage of the hostile political environment and prominent racial divides in America for his own gain. He preyed on stereotypes of Trump supporters by casting himself as the victim. By doing so, he sets back years of activism and encourages more ignorance that is sure to come from this incident.

In March of 2006, the infamous “Duke Lacrosse Team” incident occurred. To summarize this complicated affair, a woman made false allegations against some members of the Duke lacrosse team which resulted in three of them being charged with rape. Their coach was forced to resign, their team was suspended and the accused boys’ reputations were tarnished.

As horrible as this incident is, what came from it is arguably worse. Since this case, every time a woman comes forward and accuses a political figure of sexual assault, such as Brett Kavanaugh, this case always seems to be brought up to delegitimize the victim before even given a chance to speak. One bad case, to some, defines every case.

The fear is that the same will result from Smollett’s situation.

The ideas displayed by the Duke Lacrosse Team incident have been used to foster the narrative that the victim should not be believed first. That mindset is dangerous. Smollett’s crime could not have the same implications: whenever a Trump supporter or white supremacist commits a crime against a minority or whenever hate crimes occur, to this case may be brought up to invalidate the victim.

This has may not only be used to invalidate victims of racism and prejudice but may also play into the victim-blaming. When the incident first came out that Smollett was allegedly assaulted, thousands came to his defense, even prominent politicians including former Vice President Joe Biden. People immediately jumped to his aid and believed him, the victim. However, since he allegedly lied about the assault, the logic of always believing the victim is called into question as to whether it really is logical.

The #MeToo movement was nursed by the open and accepting nature of believing victims, effectively ridding politics and entertainment of some of the worst offenders. That seems pretty logical. So don’t let Smollett’s stupid decisions change the society built around elevating victims of racism, prejudice and assault. Condemn him for his actions, but this incident should never be used as a reason to not believe a person’s account of prejudice or racism shown against them.

That’s not to say that the accused is automatically guilty. Believing the victim and avoiding victim-shaming is not synonymous with the idea of  “guilty until proven innocent.” But it’s important that one rare and rogue incident, like the alleged fabricated assault of Smollett or the false allegations against the Duke lacrosse players, isn’t used as a model to generalize all instances of these events.

Even though Smollett’s hate crime and assault may have been fake, for many others, it is very real. Since 2017, hate crimes have risen over 5 percent, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of which 58.1 percent are racially motivated. There were over 8000 hate crimes reported in 2018.

Unlike Smollett’s claims, that statistic is not a hoax.