You must, at least if you’re American, know about l’affaire Jussie Smollett, or, as Dave Chappelle calls him, “the French actor Juicy Smollyé”. (Smollett was a character in the television series “Empire.”)
In 2019, Smollett reported that he was a victim of a “hate crime” in Chicago perpetrated by two men who accosted him as he was going out to get a Subway sandwich after midnight. He claimed that the men were white, wearing MAGA hats, shouted racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and then put a noose around his neck. You can read all the details at the Wikipedia article, “Alleged assault of Jussie Smollett.”
Police investigations soon revealed that this was likely a hoax perpetrated by Smollett to draw attention to himself, and, sure enough, two brothers, who were black, were located as co-conspirators. They;had worked on Smollett’s set, knew him, and investigation turned up a check from Smollett to one of the brothers, as well as text messages and videos incriminating Smollett.
After this, nobody with a lick of sense thought that Smollett had been the victim of a hate crime; it was realized, even in the black community, that he had perpetrated a hoax. If you want to see a funny video about that, Dave Chappelle’s bit below is very good and hilarious (warning: racist language):
Here’s the history of Smollett’s run-ins with the law about this “assault”, taken from Wikipedia:
On February 13, 2019, Chicago police raided the home of two brothers who had worked with Smollett as extras on his television show’s set. Police recovered records indicating the brothers had been paid $3,500 by Smollett. They had purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Ravenswood over the weekend of January 25. They were also seen in the security camera footage in a clothing store where they bought gloves, ski masks, and a red hat that police said was used in the attack. On February 20, 2019, Smollett was indicted for disorderly conduct for paying the brothers to stage a fake hate crime assault on him and filing a false police report. Smollett’s defense team reached a deal with prosecutors on March 26, 2019, in which all charges were dropped in return for Smollett performing community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond.
The charges were dropped, but Smollett was also dropped from the “Empire” show.
On April 12, 2019, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit in the Cook County Circuit Court against Smollett for the cost of overtime authorities expended investigating the alleged attack, totalling $130,105.15. In November 2019, Smollett filed a counter-suit against the city of Chicago alleging he was the victim of “mass public ridicule and harm” and arguing he should not be made to reimburse the city for the cost of the investigation.
On February 11, 2020, after further investigation by a special prosecutor was completed, Smollett was indicted again by a Cook County grand jury on six counts pertaining to making four false police reports. On June 12, 2020, a judge rejected Smollett’s claim that his reindictment violated his right against double jeopardy. Smollett’s trial began on November 29, 2021.
So Smollett is on trial again for six felony counts. The trial ended yesterday and if the jury has any neurons, they’ll find him guilty today. If they don’t, I’ll be completely flummoxed and baffled given the overwhelming evidence against him. But it’s unlikely that, even if convicted, he’ll go to jail. Still, if he’s convicted he’ll have a felony record and will likely be fined the amount that it cost Chicago to investigate his allegations (about $130,000). He’s maintained his innocence the whole time, and even took the stand in his own defense, whereupon his story and explanations (the check was for “exercise and nutrition” for the brothers) was ripped apart by the prosecution.
Reader Luana sent me this tweet by the black conservative Coleman Hughes, who agrees with Chappelle (and me). But regardless of the source, the item of interest is the BLM statement below Jussie’s picture. I’ll put the entire statement below, as it’s worth reading.
The national spokespeople for BLM are simply on other planet. Exhibit Z: they still (claim to) believe one of the most obvious hoaxes in recent memory. https://t.co/CQ6zoB4PyV
— Coleman Hughes (@coldxman) December 9, 2021
Here’s the statement in its entirety (click on screenshot):
As abolitionists, we approach situations of injustice with love and align ourselves with our community. Because we got us. So let’s be clear: we love everybody in our community. It’s not about a trial or a verdict decided in a white supremacist charade, it’s about how we treat our community when corrupt systems are working to devalue their lives. In an abolitionist society, this trial would not be taking place, and our communities would not have to fight and suffer to prove our worth. Instead, we find ourselves, once again, being forced to put our lives and our value in the hands of judges and juries operating in a system that is designed to oppress us, while continuing to face a corrupt and violent police department, which has proven time and again to have no respect for our lives.
In our commitment to abolition, we can never believe police, especially the Chicago Police Department (CPD) over Jussie Smollett, a Black man who has been courageously present, visible, and vocal in the struggle for Black freedom. While policing at-large is an irredeemable institution, CPD is notorious for its long and deep history of corruption, racism, and brutality. From the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, to the Burge tortures, to the murder of Laquan McDonald and subsequent cover-up, to the hundreds of others killed by Chicago police over the years and the thousands who survived abuse, Chicago police consistently demonstrate that they are among the worst of the worst. Police lie and Chicago police lie especially.
Black Lives Matter will continue to work towards the abolition of police and every unjust system. We will continue to love and protect one another, and wrap our arms around those who do the work to usher in Black freedom and, by extension, freedom for everyone else.
They clearly believe Smollett’s story, but for only two reasons: it fits in with a narrative of oppression (two whites supposedly attacked a black man and made racist statements), and, second the investigation was conducted by the police (BLM are police “abolitionists”). The evidence isn’t even a consideration here; they say “we can never believe police”. But the evidence came from much more than the police: it came from video cameras and especially the two black brothers who testified against Smollett. It also came from the check, which Smollett admitted he wrote to pay the brothers.
Now the claims of police violence and racism are not totally unjustified given the past. The murder of Fred Hampton in 1969, for example, was a horrible police execution of a black activist who had been deliberately drugged. No shots were fired; the cops just pumped bullets into a sleeping man. And yes, there’s been police racism since them, but I would not characterize the police as inevitably racist, liars, and white supremacists.
But this trial is not a matter of police claims versus Smollett’s claims: it’s a matter of what the empirical evidence shows, and Smollett himself, as well as his attorneys, were given a chance to have their say. The BLM statement thus implicates the jury itself as instantiating white supremacy and injustice.
What we see here is how strongly an ideological commitment can override evidence. If the system is so committed to oppressing blacks no matter what, why did O. J. Simpson, whom I believe was a murderer, get off?
But of course anecdotes won’t settle this. What will settle the Smollett case is evidence—evidence that can be both adduced and inspected by Smollett and his lawyers. If the jury finds him innocent, I will be very, very surprised.
About the BLM call to abolish the police: I think that’s impractical and ridiculous. Remember, they’re not calling for “defunding” police, but abolishing them. While I appreciate that the principle of BLM is to secure equality of blacks and whites, and I support that goal, I am not behind some of their other principles. Abolition of the police, which is palpably insane, is one of them. I can’t stand behind BLM so long as they remain “police abolitionists.
A Gallup poll last year showed that 81% of blacks wanted the police to spend as much or more time as they do now patrolling where they live. That means that BLM is not even close to expressing the wishes of the people they claim to represent, at least as far as policing is concerned.