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: 315026

Reported Deaths: 7257
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21684260
Hinds20385416
Harrison17973309
Rankin13650278
Jackson13456246
Madison10130217
Lee9988174
Jones8388163
Forrest7701152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6411148
Lamar624686
Lafayette6210119
Washington5342134
Bolivar4804132
Oktibbeha463298
Panola4601107
Pearl River4524146
Marshall4454103
Warren4397121
Pontotoc421172
Monroe4120133
Union411276
Neshoba4033176
Lincoln3972110
Hancock380287
Leflore3500125
Sunflower336490
Tate335484
Pike3330105
Scott316773
Alcorn313670
Yazoo311870
Itawamba300877
Copiah297865
Coahoma295979
Simpson295388
Tippah289068
Adams288682
Prentiss280360
Marion269680
Leake268673
Wayne262941
Grenada261987
Covington260381
George249448
Newton246963
Winston227881
Tishomingo227567
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208457
Holmes189174
Clay185654
Stone183033
Tallahatchie179041
Clarke178180
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164838
Smith162734
Walthall134345
Greene130633
Lawrence129324
Montgomery127242
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121929
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107233
Tunica105726
Claiborne102530
Benton100125
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67631
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540267

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798791529
Mobile41295809
Madison35175506
Tuscaloosa25932455
Shelby25309249
Montgomery24736593
Baldwin21422310
Lee15997172
Calhoun14577319
Morgan14431280
Etowah13927353
Marshall12280225
Houston10650282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10075151
St. Clair9955245
Cullman9773194
Lauderdale9465243
DeKalb8866188
Talladega8344176
Walker7261278
Autauga7010108
Jackson6840112
Blount6776139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5583118
Dale4878113
Russell445938
Chilton4383113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia395177
Chambers3598123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303698
Winston275873
Bibb264864
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219069
Fayette213162
Henry190043
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178241
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153657
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140753
Wilcox127430
Bullock123342
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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