Opinion by J1 Reporter Maya Reed
A hate crime is defined as an criminal act against a person or a person’s property by an offender motivated by racial or other bias. A hate crime can be worse than a felony. When someone commits a hate crime, it is because of something that they don’t like about a person and usually it’s something that cannot be changed such as race, gender or preferred sexual orientation. The violence that the assaulted person faced not only affects them personally but can cause an uproar in the public, just as it did in the Jussie Smollett case.
According to The Chicago Tribune, actor Jussie Smollett star of “Empire” told “Chicago police in January that two men attacked him near his apartment building in Streeterville, slipping a noose around his neck and yelling racial and homophobic slurs.” The article states that the attackers yelled “This is MAGA country.”
The report of the assault brought about outrage. The public was disgusted and defended Smollett believing that no one should fall victim to such ridicule. Sometime after the report, surveillance pictures were released of the alleged attackers but did not show the actual attack itself. More than three weeks later, authorities said they believed Smollett was lying and charged him with disorderly conduct, alleging he filed a false police report.
After Smollett was put through trial, he was let off with a plea bargain in which all charges against him were dropped and his record wiped. Smollett’s only requirement was to simply forfeit his $10,000 bond payment and serve two days of community service.
Although it is unclear as to whether the assault was real or not, it is wrong that anyone would use their identity to their advantage; especially for publicity purposes. To fake a hate crime is wrong and cruel to those who have actually been in such situations.
Any African American who has been assaulted, injured, beaten or even hung because of their race has now been disrespected by Smollet’s actions. Anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ and/or who has been violently attacked and threatened because of who they love has been disrespected.
Take a moment to think about all who have died because of their race and or sexual orientation: Emmett Till was a young African American. In 1955, at 14, he was lynched and beaten to death after being accused of offending a white women in her family’s store. This lead to the establishment of “Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act”. This Act of the United States Congress exists to reopen cases of racially suspicious violent crimes that were committed during the pre-Civil Rights era, in an attempt to bring closure to families and bring criminals to justice.
Another report stated that, on June 21,1977 Robert Hillsborough and Jerry Taylor went out to the disco. When leaving, they were followed back to their apartment and attacked by a gang of young men yelling homophobic slurs. Jerry got away, however, Robert was brutally beaten and stabbed 15 times by 19-year-old John Cordova. To use a serious situation that truly affects people to gain money or publicly is outrageous.
It is upsetting to know that someone who had money and a successful career would willingly choose to falsify an incident like this just because they felt they weren’t getting paid enough or wanted higher popularity rates.
The whole situation shows how power and greed can lead a person to do horrible things. To use stereotypes to one’s advantage is terrible. Jussie Smollett cried wolf, and now he plays a part in the skepticism of those who truly have been assaulted for race, and or gender.