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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.

Confirmed Cases: 36680

Reported Deaths: 1250
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds299254
DeSoto195920
Madison148439
Jones122449
Harrison117716
Rankin112619
Neshoba104677
Forrest103843
Lauderdale96681
Scott82415
Jackson79819
Washington73713
Copiah67016
Leake63420
Lee62822
Oktibbeha61928
Grenada6049
Warren60021
Holmes59541
Lamar5837
Wayne56519
Yazoo5607
Lowndes54817
Leflore53456
Lincoln53335
Lafayette5064
Pike50520
Sunflower5048
Monroe46135
Panola4546
Covington4465
Simpson4433
Bolivar41218
Tate39213
Attala38624
Newton37610
Adams35820
Pontotoc3556
Marion34512
Claiborne30811
Pearl River30332
Winston30111
Chickasaw30019
Marshall2923
Jasper2816
Noxubee2799
Walthall2708
Clay26111
Union25412
Smith25212
Coahoma2306
Clarke22325
Lawrence2132
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18211
Montgomery1793
Calhoun1705
Humphreys16910
Hancock14813
Itawamba1478
Tippah14611
Webster13411
Jefferson1283
Prentiss1274
Jefferson Davis1254
Tunica1253
George1233
Greene11610
Amite1123
Alcorn1072
Tishomingo1061
Quitman1011
Wilkinson989
Perry914
Stone772
Choctaw764
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton470
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 54768

Reported Deaths: 1096
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6746170
Mobile4904140
Montgomery4547112
Tuscaloosa269053
Madison22689
Marshall198011
Shelby169125
Lee159637
Morgan13385
Baldwin127711
Walker107532
Elmore106721
Etowah101114
Dallas10029
DeKalb9677
Franklin93816
Autauga69815
Russell6860
Unassigned67928
Chambers67730
Butler65229
Limestone6393
Tallapoosa63069
Cullman6156
Houston6077
Lauderdale5776
St. Clair5443
Calhoun5155
Colbert5096
Escambia4888
Lowndes48422
Pike4795
Jackson4352
Coffee4284
Covington41612
Talladega4017
Barbour3992
Dale3951
Bullock37810
Hale35423
Marengo35411
Chilton3312
Blount3201
Clarke3176
Wilcox3038
Winston2995
Sumter29213
Marion29014
Pickens2746
Randolph2639
Monroe2603
Perry2502
Conecuh2318
Bibb2241
Macon2199
Choctaw21712
Greene1989
Henry1553
Washington1488
Lawrence1360
Crenshaw1323
Cherokee1247
Geneva980
Lamar891
Clay852
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Coosa661
Cleburne451
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