Last week, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail and ordered to pay restitution of $120,000 and $25,000 in fines after he was convicted in 2019 of staging the hate crime he said he suffered. Well, according to the New York Times, “An Illinois appellate court ruled Wednesday that the actor Jussie Smollett be released from jail on bond pending the appeal of his conviction for falsely reporting that he had been the victim of a hate crime.” Meanwhile, Jussie’s brother, Jocqui Smollett, has some words for the Black community and our support for his embattled sibling—or lack thereof.
“Our community innately has a lot of homophobia in it, and they leveraged that fact,” Jocqui said during an interview referring to the legal system that convicted his brother. “They knew that, ultimately, Jussie was not going to get the type of support as a straight Black man—and it’s been obvious.”
“I find it very difficult to believe that this ever would’ve gotten this far if Jussie was a straight Black man,” he continued. “And so we really need to think about that. Celebrities, common people everyone—we need to think about the fact that, literally, society at large failed him. And hopefully, the truth comes out to where people can see it as clear as day. I don’t know how we don’t see it now, but hopefully, someday that happens, and when that day happens, it’s really a shame that it took that long for folks to understand that.”
So, here’s the thing: Two things can be true at once. The Black collective can still have a homophobia problem—I mean, we’re not the ones pushing “Don’t Say Gay” laws or actively fighting LGBTQ rights initiatives, but whatever—and Black people’s homophobia can also have nothing to do with many of us not believing his weird and elaborate hate crime story.
Speaking only for myself, there’s not a straight Black male celebrity who could have told me he was walking alone to a Subway in Chicago (of all places) when two white men called him racial slurs, tied a noose around his neck, and shouted “This is MAGA country” and I would have responded—“Yeah, that sounds legit.”
Sorry, but it just didn’t sound like a real-life hate crime. It sounded like Lee Daniels wrote a hate crime into a script. Even before any of us heard any news about Nigerian brothers posing as MAGAts and staging the crime, Black people didn’t think his story smelled right, and the fact that every new detail that emerged since seemed to vindicate that feeling didn’t help.
Also, I’m not sure where Jocaui is getting it from that “this ever would’ve gotten this far” if Jussie had the full support of the Black community. In what America does a Black man not catch a charge in our legal system simply because Black people made a fuss about it? I’m just not here for Jocqui throwing the Black collective under the bus when we have no real control over our legal system and when virtually anyone who has supported Jussie through the saga has been more likely to be a Black person than not.
All that being said, I am on team #FreeJussie.
Look, I know it’s not practical to think that someone accused and convicted of wasting police resources on a hoax won’t do jail time, but America never has the same energy for others whose lies have consequences. Cops lie and deceive constantly and it’s usually legal. and when it isn’t, more often than not, the most punishment a cop gets is paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
Hell, Donald Trump lied incessantly in an attempt to upend democracy based on a “stop the steal” hoax and he hasn’t done a day for it.
Now, I know those examples aren’t exactly apples to apples, but all I’m saying is—why should we care about Jussie facing consequences when America gets to proceed with the hoax that is the notion of “equality and justice for all” in a post-racial reality that clearly doesn’t exist?
So, what do y’all think about what Jocqui had to say?
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