FOR THE QC
Actor and LGBTQIA+ activist, Jussie Smollett, recently found himself in hot water when he became the forefront of national headlines. According to the New York Times, on Jan. 29, 2019, Smollett reported that he was assaulted by two men in all black. At the scene, Smollett claimed these men were shouting pro-“Make America Great Again” statements, coupled with racial and homophobic slurs. Along with verbally attacking Smollett, the men physically assaulted him by pouring a chemical substance on him and tying a rope around his neck. As the story came into the public’s eyes, many celebrities stood in solidarity with Smollett, as well as other minorities that are targets of this type of discrimination.
Smollet’s story was being looked at as a possible hate crime, gaining national attention by celebrities and news outlets. However, this quickly took a turn as the men who allegedly attacked Smollett, the Osundairo brothers, were arrested and questioned for 48 hours. During the 47th hour, the brothers caved and told the officers what they claimed really happened. Had they held out for one more hour, the police would have been forced to let them go, because the law states police cannot hold anyone in custody for more than 48 hours without arresting them. The brothers said that Smollett had paid them to attack him, and, thus, the whole thing had been staged by the actor himself. What began as a story of an actor who was brutally targeted and attacked, based on his race and sexual orientation, was beginning to spin into a web of lies.
While Smollett has stayed true to his story, many people have raised concerns about the inaccuracies. For example, authorities claim that the scratches on the back of Smollett’s neck were self-inflicted. Smollett finally broke his silence during an interview on ABC, where he thanked his fans and those supporting him through this difficult time and continued to assure people that he was telling the truth.
Many people believe that Smollett could have staged this in order to get attention from the media because he had become unsatisfied with his salary. However, I find that story difficult to believe. While I am unsure of Smollett’s character, I am aware of the struggles Smollett has faced in the past being a gay, African-American actor. Although we live in a world that has taken great leaps forward for the LGBTQIA+ community, it would be naive to think that homophobic people do not exist.
Smollett has integrated activism into his professional career and is a big spokesperson for these different communities. As he is someone who has been personally affected by this discrimination, I see this being done as more of a wake-up call for society. These types of attacks, unfortunately, are very common throughout the nation. However, it seems that the public only cares about these attacks when they involve someone famous. In a twisted way, this could be seen as staged activism, and, although it cannot be condoned, it is shedding light on this issue. While I do think that Smollett should be punished for his actions, and it is not acceptable to make light or joke about attacks like these, especially those that falsely claim a person was the victim of a hate crime, I do believe this attack is speaking to a lot of unheard voices in our country.
Smollett has been charged with a felony, more specifically, for filing a false police report. Although he posted his $100,000 bond, he will return to court on March 14.