Jussie Smollett found guilty of hate crime hoax

The definition of a hate crime seems simple enough in Merriam-Webster.  A hate crime is "any of various crimes (such as assault or defacement of property) when motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group (such as one based on color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation)."  Historically, such crimes were carried out against Black people, particularly Black men, who were falsely accused of some misdeed against White people, usually White women.  Emmett Till was an especially egregious example of such a crime.  The 14-year-old was accused of some nebulous sexual misconduct against a White woman.  He was lynched, and his killers were acquitted.  That was a true hate crime against a Black kid for the sole reason of his skin color.

In 1987, hate crimes took a sharp left turn with Tawana Brawley, a Black 15-year-old who falsely accused White men of kidnapping and raping her.  While genuine hate crimes still took place, the hate crime hoax was born.  People began to fabricate crimes against themselves for various reasons.  The crimes were reported in the media as real crimes until evidence proved they were actually hoaxes.  Some of the hoaxers were murderers trying to cover up a killing, like Charles Stuart, Jesse Anderson, and Susan Smith.  As vile as such lies are, there is a certain logic in a killer blaming an unknown assailant.

Less understandable are hoaxes like the Duke Lacrosse case or the State University of New York at Albany bus attack hoax, in which people "of color" made false accusations against White people for no other reason than to fan racial hatred and unrest.  The false reports were lightly regarded, both by the public and the media, paving the way for more serious hate crimes against Whites.  After the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, reports of hate crimes sprang up on social media like rank weeds.  The fake reports overwhelmingly had one thing in common: vicious Whites lording it over terrified non-White people.  No matter how often the reports were proven to be false, the hoaxers were undeterred.  It seems inevitable that someone like Jussie Smollett would eventually surface.

Image: Jussie Smollett (edited in befunky).  YouTube screen grab.

Smollett has been found guilty on five counts of disorderly conduct for faking a hate crime and making false reports to the police.  His story was so absurd that it began to unravel as soon as it was reported, a woeful tale of an innocent black man out in the freezing cold in the middle of the night who was set upon by MAGA hat–wearing Trump-supporters equipped with bleach and a noose.  Smollett claimed to have fought off his attackers so valiantly that he saved not only his life, but also his sandwich in one hand and his cell phone in the other.  The jury took less than a day to convict.

Smollett's case was always bizarre.  He's a good-looking, talented young man; he was on a hit TV show; and it seemed a safe bet that his star would continue to rise.  Since he is sticking to his story of White attackers, we may never know why he decided to perpetrate a hate crime against White people.

We do know that he has damaged race relations.  We can be sure that genuine hate crimes against Blacks are viewed with greater skepticism.  On those grounds alone, Smollett should get a stiff punishment, but it's more likely the judge will hand down probation and community service.  The only real punishment Jussie Smollett may suffer is the loss of his career, and the use of his name as a byword for a liar and a racist.  If that is the case, one can only hope it is enough to deter the next person contemplating a hate crime hoax.

Pandra Selivanov is the author of The Pardon, a story of forgiveness based on the thief on the cross in the Bible.

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