A failure of justice

“Empire” actor stages attack and walks away

Last year, if you had asked me who Jussie Smollett was, I would have returned your question with a blank stare.

Now, if you don’t know who Jussie Smollett is, you probably don’t have any social media accounts, never watch the news and essentially live under a rock.

And unfortunately, I wish I still didn’t know who he was. Because now I know him as the actor who faked a hate crime against himself and got off scot-free. A black man who is openly gay abused the justice system that was meant to protect minorities — minorities that he identifies with — from crimes against them because of who they are. Smollett was charged with 16 felonies for false reporting, one for each lie he allegedly told the police about the attack he paid two men to stage.

All charges were dropped by the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, and the Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association (IPBA) released a statement that said Foxx misled the public about the case.

“The manner in which this case was dismissed was abnormal and unfamiliar to those who practice law in criminal courthouses across the State,” the IPBA official statement reads. “Even more problematic, the State’s Attorney and her representatives have fundamentally misled the public on the law and circumstances surrounding the dismissal.”

Foxx publicly recused herself from the case but according to IPBA’s statement, Foxx kept the case within her office, and therefore did not actually recuse herself and still influenced the decisions. Other issues are mentioned in the statement, but Foxx botched this case and it’s unclear exactly why.

Another fundamental problem lies in a justice system that does not punish those who lie or falsely accuse others.

This does not apply to this situation alone. False rape allegations are another instance that come to mind. A Baylor football player named Shawn Oakman was accused of rape in 2016, and his entire career and future career in the NFL was destroyed. Oakman was acquitted by a jury in March, but his life had been torn apart and his reputation was shattered. But will the woman who falsely accused him of rape be held accountable in any way be punished? No. Was Smollett held accountable for staging a heinous crime? No.

The specific allegations of the attack, such as the attackers yelling racial and homophobic slurs, tying a noose around Smollett’s neck and shouting “This is MAGA country,” were reported for a reason. This alleged attack was crafted in the most racist and homophobic ways possible; it fit the narrative the media is pushing so well that it’s strange no one questioned it.

And the worst part? The media ran with this story faster than Usain Bolt in a 100-meter dash. They absolutely ate it up and sensationalized a lie. To be fair, Smollett was a master of deception in this incident, planning the perfect public appearances, tearing up while being interviewed on Good Morning America. It was truly one of the most successful acts of manipulation I have seen.

While all of these issues have infuriated me about this situation, the most significant takeaway I have is how disgusted I am with Jussie himself. I can’t fathom what would drive someone to scheme up an incident, to pay someone to stage an attack that hospitalized him, for what many speculated was to further his career.

I would love to say that this situation was a complete anomaly and Smollett is one of a kind. But in reality, I think this incident has emphasized how polarized our country has become politically.

And unfortunately, I do not believe it will be trending downward anytime soon.