Editor’s note: The editorial has been updated to accurately say charged instead of convicted of a felony.
Following an almost month-long investigation, actor Jussie Smollett has been charged of a felony for falsifying a reported hate crime attack.
The 36-year-old reported to police that he was allegedly attacked by two white men who tied a noose around his neck, proclaiming “MAGA (make America great again) country,” as they physically attacked and poured bleach on him.
Smollett, who stars in the hit FOX show “Empire,” is an openly gay black man who has spoken at great lengths on justice issues for the marginalized communities to which he belongs.
Rumored to be unhappy with his salary, Smollett allegedly staged an unsuccessful threatening letter to the set of the show last month, resulting in the organized attack on Jan. 29.
The events that followed included an outpour of support from black and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as prominent politicians and celebrities.
Upon the surfacing of a surveillance video of the area surrounding the crime scene, as well as a deep investigation of many questionable details, Smollett allegedly paid two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, to stage the attack.
The matter has raised many polarizing discussions and has brought attention to hate crimes in America on a more public scale.
Despite the statistically proven rise in hate crimes within marginalized communities since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, as a public figure, Smollett has blatantly abused his celebrity power and discredited the stories of real victims. As a result, his actions have empowered deniers of hate crime survivors and reporters.
Arguments have arisen that Smollett has played a part in delegitimizing future reports of black and LGBTQ+ crime and assault, which are already disregarded at a higher rate than any other report of crime.
Others have argued that a deeply ingrained history of white hoaxers — like Carolyn Bryant who falsely accused black teen Emmett Till in 1955, resulting in his murder and the countless cases that have mirrored his — has not discredited the voice of white survivors, and therefore should have no impact on the voices of black and LGBTQ+ survivors.
The “boy who cried wolf” mentality has long predated Smollett’s actions and will exist long after.
Despite the small number of disturbed individuals who aim to capitalize on the marginalization of minorities, these crimes are not only real, but happening every single day.
Attacks on black and LGBTQ+ individuals continue to be the least reported, even though these groups are two of the most prominently marginalized groups in American history
We are living in a time period of regression, where groups we thought had ceased to exist have found new voices, during our current administration.
As proven through the 2017, white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia despite our highest hopes, we still live in a time of great hate and white, cisgender, straight supremacy.
While abhorrent, the Trump administration has brought up the essential conversation that hate has not gone away. It has just been temporarily swept under the rug.
If there is anything positive to take away from the Smollett case, it is that the issue of violent crimes against marginalized groups is center stage. It is essential to acknowledge that these crimes are still happening, at such a common rate that people believe they can not only get away with faking them, but profiting off of them as well.
Despite the impact that Smollett’s case may have, his attempt to capitalize on the pitfalls of modern society create a grounds for a discussion that is crucial for us to have as we navigate though the most polarizing political atmosphere in history.
Just because Jussie Smollett was not actually attacked, his story represents the millions of voiceless individuals who fall victim to hate crimes in America every single day, whose stories cannot be disregarded in the wake of one man’s selfishness.