If Jussie Smollett Is Guilty, He's Done a Massive Disservice to Real Victims of Hate Crimes

Real hate crimes are on the rise, which makes fabricating one all the more egregious.

When someone says they're the victim of a crime, most people tend to believe them—especially if the person files a police report, has physical injuries and publicizes a very specific story of the event.

Filing a police report gives a story an added layer of legitimacy because a false police report is not only a crime but an easily identifiable one. Secondly, victim statements count as legal evidence in court, so when someone claims they were the victim of a crime, their claim is evidence. In other words, when someone claims they're the victim of a crime, they're probably telling the truth.

So when Jussie Smollett came forward and claimed he was the victim of a hate crime—the black, gay, famous target of two MAGA hat-wearing, slur-shouting white men—many people believed him. Sure, his story had some odd elements, but why would a successful actor stake his career and public image on a fabricated story? Sure, the situation sounded bizarre, but considering the Empire studio received a threat against Smollett in the mail shortly before he made the report, the attack seemed plausible.

Then, Smollett's story started to fall apart. There was no video evidence of the supposedly public assault. Then there were two suspects. Then those suspects were found, but instead of being Trump-thumping white strangers, they were two Nigerian brothers who knew Smollett through Empire. They claimed he paid them to stage the attack. Soon after, the Chicago Police arrested Smollett on suspicion of making a false report and Empire dropped him from the show. And while Smollett, like any defendant in our criminal justice system, has the legal presumption of innocence, his guilt seems very likely.

Assuming Jussie Smollett is guilty of staging his own attack, the moral implications are dire. It's no secret that our country is fractured. The Trump presidency has laid bare America's many divides and hate crimes are on the rise, clearly stoked by right-wing rhetoric, with many perpetrators targeting black and LGBTQ people. Despite this, victims are always met with unfairly intense skepticism, especially when an alleged perpetrator is a white man.

So the notion of a black LGBTQ person publicly fabricating a hate crime for personal gain, thereby legitimizing the worst inclinations of people who already skew toward distrusting victims, is unconscionable. Assuming Jussie Smollett really did pay off two people to "assault" him in hopes that a "hate crime" would boost his already successful entertainment career, he undermined the many victims of actual hate crimes for entirely selfish reasons.

The only possible explanation is that Jussie Smollett was living a completely inauthentic life, masquerading as a person with values without actually holding any—a blank slate of a man willing to throw entire groups of people under the bus for a small amount of personal gain. Manipulating the media is one thing, but stoking racial and political tensions at the expense of many real victims is a truly unforgivable crime.

Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com

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