Jussie Smollett isn't the problem. We are

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The prosecutor who dropped the charges against Jussie Smollett said he still believes the actor lied to the police about the racist and homophobic attack he allegedly staged in Chicago in January.

Posted: Mar 27, 2019 3:00 PM
Updated: Mar 27, 2019 3:00 PM

I have a confession. I never much cared about the Jussie Smollett case, even before it became the most confounding story of the year, even if what he initially claimed had been proven true.

That he faced several felony counts before escaping any real legal accountability for possibly faking a hate crime moves me even less. Am I really supposed to be shocked that a celebrity avoided jail time in an American criminal justice system that attorney and civil rights activist Bryan Stevenson rightly says treats you better if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent?

The real story is less what this bizarre series of confounding events says about Smollett and more about what it says about us.

I hate hate crimes as much as any other thinking person. But hate crimes and the like that involve celebrities who ultimately go unharmed -- the n-word spray-painted on a gate at one of LeBron James' homes, Oprah Winfrey being racially profiled in a chic boutique -- and receive instant support from millions of people have never felt compelling to me. (Smollett, by his own telling, still had the wherewithal to take his recently purchased Subway sandwich home after the alleged attack.)

They don't need our help, but we feel compelled to give it anyway, even as the least powerful among us who face worse indignities daily are left to fend for themselves.

When a black waiter in a Myrtle Beach Southern buffet restaurant came up to me distraught during lunch one day a couple of years ago because a white man a couple of booths over had called him "boy," that stopped me in my tracks. Because he had no recourse. He needed the job and couldn't afford to make a stink. His white colleagues told him to just ignore it, so he just swallowed hard and got back to work. Waitresses all across the country face the same dilemma from men who touch and speak to them in demeaning ways.

I'm more concerned with the disturbing rate of harm that is too frequently visited upon trans women, particularly trans women of color, and the rise of white supremacist acts that led to the slaughter of Jewish and black people during worship and Bible study.

I started caring about the Smollett story because of the reaction to the story, because we've come to view the justice system as just another tool to push political agendas instead of the best way to determine truth and ensure justice. George Zimmerman became a hero among some conservatives when he was found not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin -- even though we know Zimmerman began that chain of events that resulted in Martin's death.

Many liberals howled when Paul Manafort was given "only" four years in prison -- even though liberals have been fighting against mass incarceration and unduly long and harsh prison sentences. This past weekend, some conservatives cheered when Attorney General William Barr said the Mueller report showed insufficient evidence that the Donald Trump campaign had conspired with Russia -- even though they had spent several months calling the investigation a witch hunt and hoax and arguing that Robert Mueller and the other investigators couldn't be trusted.

It should not pass notice that many of those declaring President Trump innocent of any wrongdoing because he faces no charges and because of a summary of a report none of them has read aren't willing to do the same for Smollett.

But maybe the least credible actors in this saga are the Chicago police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, each of whom have expressed outrage that Smollett is no longer in legal peril and that the case has been sealed. Chicago police and Emanuel were among those who made it harder to hold the police officer who killed Laquan McDonald accountable until the forced release of the video documenting that crime led to the officer's conviction.

That doesn't include the Chicago police's history of torturing black men and a judge's decision just weeks ago to declare the officers who made numerous false statements about the McDonald shooting not guilty.

Smollett shouldn't be top of mind, no matter whether he's telling the truth or really staged a phony attack to boost his chances of getting a raise. But he is. That doesn't mean he should be scapegoated for our inability to focus on things far more important. That's our fault, not his.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 161516

Reported Deaths: 3916
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10863104
Hinds10705207
Harrison7624114
Jackson6774131
Rankin6303114
Lee557798
Madison5311112
Forrest405587
Jones388589
Lauderdale3754149
Lafayette347358
Washington3421108
Lamar310350
Lowndes265168
Oktibbeha262763
Bolivar254686
Panola243754
Neshoba2333124
Marshall229451
Leflore216492
Monroe216278
Pontotoc213631
Lincoln203267
Sunflower198156
Warren189559
Tate187251
Union179626
Copiah176141
Pike170860
Pearl River168170
Itawamba166637
Scott166030
Yazoo164441
Alcorn161529
Coahoma160044
Prentiss159034
Simpson156954
Grenada149545
Adams148852
Leake146244
George138326
Covington137642
Holmes136861
Tippah135230
Winston134326
Hancock132842
Wayne127424
Attala126836
Marion126548
Tishomingo116444
Newton114929
Chickasaw112632
Tallahatchie101227
Clay98527
Clarke96954
Jasper90023
Stone85115
Calhoun82413
Montgomery80726
Walthall80430
Carroll78115
Lawrence76814
Smith76516
Yalobusha75728
Noxubee74817
Perry70127
Greene66023
Tunica64019
Amite61815
Jefferson Davis60818
Claiborne59716
Humphreys56119
Benton51018
Quitman5107
Kemper50019
Webster49514
Wilkinson42522
Jefferson39012
Franklin3866
Choctaw3757
Sharkey33517
Issaquena1254
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 264199

Reported Deaths: 3831
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson35310515
Mobile20626372
Madison14521153
Tuscaloosa13897173
Montgomery12844246
Shelby1127878
Baldwin9501138
Lee807167
Morgan740555
Etowah704870
Marshall695358
Calhoun6939126
Houston559140
DeKalb521843
Cullman490650
St. Clair466557
Limestone462446
Lauderdale452257
Elmore440070
Walker3914112
Talladega386157
Jackson373523
Colbert347948
Blount323146
Autauga294542
Franklin265534
Coffee260023
Dale247355
Dallas236832
Chilton235445
Covington234834
Russell23433
Escambia208832
Tallapoosa192692
Chambers189154
Clarke165422
Pike165215
Marion150236
Winston146325
Lawrence139936
Pickens129720
Geneva12929
Marengo127824
Bibb127038
Barbour121729
Butler121142
Cherokee108224
Randolph108022
Fayette102216
Hale102132
Clay95527
Washington94222
Henry9097
Monroe85311
Lowndes82930
Cleburne80914
Macon77522
Crenshaw73830
Lamar7348
Conecuh73215
Bullock71120
Perry7037
Wilcox65918
Sumter60122
Greene45818
Choctaw43620
Coosa3854
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