So let’s talk about Jussie Smollett. If you somehow missed this story, the actor reported a hideous hate crime, gaining widespread support and sparking many important conversations. Subsequent investigating indicated he had orchestrated the incident. Quickly, the support for the actor (and by extension, the LGBTQ community and persons of colour) took a negative turn. Smollett has now been formally charged for this misuse of resources and has swiftly been made an example of. But here’s the thing….
When I heard about this incident, something in me disbelieved the story. NOT because it is improbable, it most certainly is not. The type of attack portrayed by Smollett happens throughout the world- even in the shiny little suburban corners. For me, the textbook nature of the details made it unbelievable. The addition of red hats and Trump references was somehow a little too bizarre, as the first facts to be released. They were a painfully obvious narrative, even for the ignorant demographic they attempted to describe. That said, even with that nagging feeling that something was amiss, there’s nothing disbelieveable about this happening in the US of A in 2019, and that is where I found value in the conversation. Part of me wondered if my cynicism was my own bias, and I care deeply about addressing my biases as ruthlessly as I can, so I suspended my disbelief. I agree with charges being laid in cases where people abuse public resources such as emergency services. And this is where I have a real problem with the backlash….
2018 saw the rise of the Weaponized White Woman. The web was littered with video after video of white women calling the police -particularly on people of colour, and even children. Of course, this phenomenon has not been limited to white women, that goes without saying. Many men also stepped forward to play with the futures of their fellow citizens for driving while black, or entering their own apartments. This trend was so prominent once the light was finally shone, that it spawned a whole nickname movement (Permit Patty, BBQ Becky). Many of these ridiculous, fearful people suffered damage to their employment or reputations, but that seems to be where it ends. It’s rather difficult to have any credibility when there is no consistency in the handling. An abuse of emergency services is an abuse of emergency services. I suggest fines and charges for those who make what are ultimately non-emergency calls and waste the time of police and fire departments. I would further include that using the police as a weapon against populations who are proven to have less favourable outcomes when interacting with police- due to inherent cultural bias and systemic racism-should carry the seriousness of a hate crime. White women have long towed the line of the white patriarchy. We overflow with manufactured fear and this crazy idea that we need protection from the world, and we often seek this via white male power structures (police services, for example), perpetuating this ridiculous myth that we are helpless and ignorant. Isn’t that cute?
I’m glad they made an example out of Jussie Smollett purely because of all the other people whose stories will not be believed because of his public charade. I struggle with the fact that public shaming is enough for others who hide behind fear as their motive for perpetuating hate, and this is the moment where society suddenly takes a stand. Jessie Smollett didn’t fabricate an impossible story, he told a real one-it just didn’t happen to him. Don’t lose sight of that reality.