When the Jussie Smollett story broke out, I—like many others—had questions that seemed to go unanswered. And in my opinion, the way that this case has been ended (and sealed) means that we probably won’t get any more concrete details. The FBI is still investigating the origin of the threatening letter that was sent to Jussie and after that is concluded, this whole situation will finally be behind us.
We are all aware that the Chicago Police Department has been known to kill and torture black people, hide evidence, etc. All of this is no a secret and that’s why it’s so comical to see Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel rush to the press/news stations to express his anger at all charges against Jussie being dropped. He ironically called it a “whitewash of justice” which proves that just because you’ve heard a word before doesn’t mean that you know its meaning.
Why is he so ready to lash out at a black man who he believes has finessed the system in the same way white people so often are allowed to? Where was this passion and energy when we were all demanding that the footage of the Laquan McDonald incident be released? We weren’t able to see what actually happened to him until 13 months after the fact because of Emanuel.
I’ve already expressed the lack of credibility on both sides of the situation. To me, Jussie’s story had obvious holes in it and the facts that came out later made his claims even shakier. But the Chicago Police Department has never, ever been an organization worthy of our trust. With the number of lives and communities that CPD has and continues to destroy, they have more important things to be worried about than imprisoning an alleged stunt queen. This is why I believed that even if Jussie lied, he should not have had to serve prison time. Apparently, he forfeited his bond and has to do some community service. That sounds like a deal was made and if that’s the case, I’m glad about it.
Whether you believe Jussie Smollett or not, please understand that his story will do nothing but expose the homophobia (and racism) that was already very present in our population. I had to grapple with myself about this very obvious fact. I had to ask myself why was I so concerned about how “Jussie would make us look” as if we (black LGBTQ+ community) don’t already look disposable and unworthy in the eyes of wider society.
Of course, I think that if he lied, people who have had real experiences with overt hate crimes would feel hurt and disrespected by him. But we shouldn’t pretend like Jussie being untruthful would magically conjure up homophobia that wasn’t in society before. It was always there. If anything, people will just use him as talking points for their bigoted mindsets for as long as he’s in the headlines and then move on to another scapegoat later.
However, I wish people understood that you can critique a situation involving a gay black man without being homophobic and racist. You can say “I have questions” without making hateful blanket statements about all black LGBTQ+ people. I saw some of the black community using this situation to spew much of their pent up homophobia on as many social media platforms as they could. I saw much of the mainstream media using this situation to call into question the validity of every minority community’s struggle with oppression and discrimination. It was irritating and revealing but as I said—they’ll move on to discredit us with something else once these news stories die down.
In order to dissect a story like this, we must be nuanced and sensible. We certainly should hold our own accountable, but we should not ignore the fact that we continue to be terrorized and taken advantage of by white supremacist systems. We should never lose sight of the fact that one person cannot be to blame for all of society’s isms and phobias.