When Empire actor Jussie Smollett reported a hate crime against himself on January 29, he arguably had no idea of how the extent of his case would impact current news media.
Smollett told police that two men approached him around 2 a.m., yelled racial and homophobic slurs, poured an unknown chemical substance on him, and finally wrapped a noose around his neck. Smollett also reported that his attackers shouted, “This is MAGA country,” in reference to our U.S. president’s campaign slogan.
After his initial report, more updates on the case were released by the Chicago Police Department and caused a confusing spiral of information meant to disprove Smollett’s claims. The police department told news media that Smollett hired the attackers and staged the entire event because he was unhappy with his salary from Empire. The president himself even posted a tweet publicly denouncing Smollett and his report.
Many were eager to believe this story, despite no official comment from Jussie Smollett himself until Tuesday, March 26th, when his charges were dropped completely. Smollett, throughout the entirety of the case, persistently stated that true justice would be served and that he stood by his original claims.
“I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he said publicly.
Though this does not absolve him of any liability if his allegedly false claims did prove to be untrue, it resounds with many Black people who are hesitant to believe the police over an openly gay Black man. People alleging that this attack was completely falsified from the beginning without hearing both sides of the story are clearly not familiar with the racial bias that Chicago PD have exemplified in the past.
The absolving of these charges doesn’t prove Smollett’s innocence, it is consistent with his previous claims, and the previous actions of the Chicago PD.