Jussie Smollett isn't the problem. We are

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State prosecutors dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett in the bias attack hoax case, in return for $10,000 and two days of community service.

Posted: Mar 27, 2019 4:00 PM
Updated: Mar 27, 2019 4:00 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: 33591

Reported Deaths: 1204
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds264246
DeSoto176718
Madison135536
Jones115949
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Harrison100312
Rankin99915
Lauderdale93781
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Lowndes51513
Leflore50756
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Pike46617
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Monroe43135
Lafayette4194
Covington3965
Panola3926
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Attala36523
Simpson3603
Newton35210
Adams33218
Tate31912
Pontotoc3166
Marion30812
Chickasaw29119
Claiborne28910
Winston28210
Noxubee2738
Pearl River26932
Jasper2666
Marshall2643
Clay25111
Smith23412
Union23311
Coahoma2136
Clarke21125
Walthall2087
Lawrence1892
Yalobusha1838
Kemper17914
Carroll17111
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1564
Montgomery1432
Calhoun1425
Tippah14211
Itawamba1408
Hancock13413
Webster12811
Tunica1153
Jefferson1143
Jefferson Davis1144
Prentiss1113
Greene1089
Amite1043
George943
Wilkinson949
Tishomingo911
Quitman891
Alcorn762
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone722
Franklin472
Benton420
Sharkey400
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 48588

Reported Deaths: 1042
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5687161
Mobile4315136
Montgomery4275109
Tuscaloosa238248
Marshall181511
Madison16208
Lee146337
Shelby141424
Morgan11575
Baldwin10399
Walker101825
Elmore97519
Dallas9189
Franklin90616
Etowah83413
DeKalb7905
Chambers64727
Autauga64312
Butler63728
Tallapoosa60669
Russell5890
Unassigned53826
Houston5366
Limestone5251
Lauderdale5146
Cullman4905
Lowndes47922
Pike4525
Colbert4426
St. Clair4402
Escambia4358
Calhoun4035
Coffee3923
Covington38110
Bullock36910
Barbour3622
Jackson3432
Talladega3337
Dale3261
Marengo32011
Hale31722
Wilcox2958
Clarke2876
Sumter28512
Winston2773
Chilton2762
Blount2581
Monroe2442
Pickens2446
Marion24114
Randolph2289
Conecuh2187
Macon2029
Choctaw19912
Bibb1981
Greene1888
Perry1791
Henry1403
Crenshaw1253
Washington1217
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Cherokee1117
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