How Jussie Smollett Has Divided America

By: Olivia Andrews

One month ago, I had never heard the name Jussie Smollett. Today, I see his name all over the news as additional details are being released daily about his alleged incident.

At the end of January, Jussie reported to police that he had been attacked by two men on the streets of Chicago who had shouted racist and homophobic slurs while pouring bleach on him and tying a noose around his neck. Since then, Smollett himself has been arrested under the suspicion that he orchestrated the attack after the discovery of incriminating evidence. He has now been charged with felony disorderly conduct and is awaiting his March hearing date after having posted his bond.

While this story might seem like old news by now, unfortunately, its effects will be long-lasting. Of course, Smollett is still innocent until officially convicted; but as of right now, the evidence looks pretty condemning.

In the fragile and divided state that America is currently in, this news only further splits our nation and makes it harder for us to unify. According to CNN, Smollett claimed that his attackers yelled, “this is MAGA country.” Once this information was released to the public the entire story became politically polarizing. Democrats were outraged, criticizing Trump’s administration and his supporters for influencing this type of hateful behavior, while Republicans became defensive, unsure how they played a role in this crime. Before any real facts had been established in this case, both parties had already resulted to name-calling and bickering, moving farther and farther away from the real issue: an alleged violent hate crime.

Although it is heartbreaking and hard to believe, in 2019 there are still hate crimes being committed on the basis of race, sexuality and religion. Smollett, as both an African-American man and a homosexual, was very adamant that he felt he was targeted because of his identity and because of the way in which he openly rejects Trump’s administration. Now that suspicions have been raised as to the validity of his story, the malice of legitimate hate crimes is being diminished.

Many individuals who initially supported Jussie have been left feeling guilty and apologetic after receiving backlash from those who initially doubted the story. Is it really fair to attack these people for their initial support of Smollett, an alleged hate crime victim? It seems that due to how fast news can and does change in this nation, we are being forced to withhold our true feelings and instead are encouraged to wait until all the facts have been given. But should we desensitize ourselves to issues such as these and initially be wary of the validity of violent attacks? This event has unconsciously made the public more apt to question an attack as opposed to standing in solidarity with the victim.

If it is true that Jussie has orchestrated this attack, he has done our entire country a disservice. He has contributed to the growing skepticism and lack of support over racially, sexually and politically charged violence. He has discouraged us from being outraged after initially hearing of a tragic attack and disrespected sincere victims of violence, making it harder for others to step forward with their stories. How are we supposed to discern what stories are true and what stores have been fabricated?

I encourage you as an individual not to let false accounts deter you from being compassionate in a time when our country so desperately needs it. This is not a republican versus democratic issue; this is not even a political issue, nor is it truly about race or sexuality or gender. As Americans, we must fight the urge to divide ourselves into these exclusive groups. We must remember to be kind and understanding. You might read about a story such as this one and feel hopeless to help create positive change, but you absolutely can. By treating others with kindness, recognizing others’ diversity as their strengths and realizing that you have more in common with the people around you than you have differences, you can help to promote unity in our nation.

While I hope that Jussie did not orchestrate this attack against himself, I hope that regardless we as a nation are able to unify and become a more accepting place for all people, regardless of what political party, race, gender or sexuality one chooses to identify with.

 

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