Jussie Smollett: An All Around Tragedy

Claire Coburn

On Feb. 20, the state attorney for Cook County, Illinois, filed a felony disorderly misconduct charge against Jussie Smollett for allegedly filing a false report of a hate crime. The next day, Jussie Smollett turned himself in. This is one of the biggest stories of the century. A gay African-American star on the hit television show “Empire” is attacked in what seems to be a hate crime, and the entire nation stands behind him in support. But when the plot twisted to him allegedly orchestrating the attack, people seemed to splinter in various directions. Personally though, at the root of this story, all I see is a tragic situation in which no one wins.

Starting off with what I perceive as the most substantial consequence of this situation, is the negative impact it will have on the LGBTQ+ and African-American communities. I personally am not a part of either community so I cannot speak on their behalf, but as an outsider here’s what I can comment. Now that someone who was seen as an advocate for both communities has allegedly staged a hate crime against himself; there may be people who start to question the authenticity of future hate crimes.

Obviously it isn’t the right or even logical thing to do but with a country as divided as this one, there will be people who see this event and start questioning the authenticity of hate crimes instead of taking them seriously. Instead of asking, “Are you alright? Do you know who did this to you?” they may start asking questions like, “Are you sure this happened to you? Are you sure they said those things to you?” Some people may argue that this is a good thing: there is a rise of hate crime “hoaxes.” But the reality is that hate crimes are on the rise, and not by a small amount. The amount of hate crimes in the early 2000s pales in comparison to the amount of hate crimes that have occured in just the last five years alone.

This brings me to another significant issue in the case. If people start taking these crimes less seriously and forget the fact that this was an isolated incident, the fight against hate crimes is going to regress. Many influential people have fought for these communities, justice and the safety of being who you are in a country that prides itself on being free to be who you want to be. With this incident, that work has been slashed. You can convince a large majority of people that this was an isolated incident but of course you will never convince everyone. After this, instead of 99 percent of people being on board, that number may slip to 2 percent or 3 percent, which in the long run makes a considerable difference.

The last thing I find truly sad in this story and what I see as completing the circle in making this an all around tragedy: Jussie Smollett himself. I couldn’t tell you what would make someone do this other than some sort of mental gap in judgement or someone talking in your ear and instructing you do this with the promise of skyrocketing your career. But at the end of the day, whether he was just a chess piece in someone’s game gone wrong or there was just a lapse in judgement, his career is over. He has ruined any chance of ever being what he once was and will more than likely pay the price for what he did for the rest of his life. Is that fate justified for what he did? Honestly I don’t know, but here’s what I do know: this situation is new ground and depending how it turns out will possibly alter the views of millions of people in the nation.