If He Lied, I Mind, but I’m Not Blind

On Jussie Smollett and the ramifications of a lie.

When the story of the hate crime against actor and singer Jussie Smollett hit the news, it disturbed me. The visuals of slurs, rope, and bleach in the cursed and cursing name of MAGA have yet to die in my mind.

Despite my words for other crimes, I didn’t have the words to type my outrage with the attack on Smollett. I couldn’t explain why. I still can’t. Maybe, as a Black gay man, it felt too close?

Shortly after the news reports, I asked a friend who is also a Black gay man what he thought and how he was feeling. He condemned the attack on Smollett, but he said, “Smollett has means. He’ll be okay.”

My friend was more concerned about those who suffer similar attacks and don’t have the means and recognition of Smollett. My friend had points, and I took them. But I still felt I should have said something.

Now that there are shadows of doubt that follow Smollett’s account, it’s the response that has my fingers clicking. I’m concerned that the possibility Smollett lied dismays people.

According to news reports, the Chicago Police Department — which itself doesn’t have a solid record of the truth — has charged Smollett with felony disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. Smollett and his attorneys maintain his story, and Smollett feels victimized by even the suggestion he lied.

Here’s my take — if Smollett lied, it is abhorrent. If Smollett isn’t lying, the attack is abhorrent. Either way, it’s bad, but the possibility he lied shouldn’t change anyone’s response to hate crimes or the MAGA mob.

It’s vital to believe accusers, to respond as if their accusations could be true, and to call for an investigation. And that’s what many people who reacted immediately to the attack on Smollett did.

They weren’t wrong. It’s never wrong to respond. First responders have a duty to respond, and like it or not, many on social media serve as first responders.

I reject any suggestion that says people should have slowed their reaction to Smollett’s accusation. You can’t blame people who respond to false alarms they didn’t sound. That blame goes to the person who broke the glass and pulled the lever.

But now, we are beyond the stage of first responses. We’re in the investigation stage. And at that stage, there’s nothing wrong with wondering if he lied, particularly if there’s evidence to warrant additional inquiries.

Let’s say for a moment Smollett lied. If that’s true, that lie is between Smollett, the Chicago PD, and Smollett’s current and future employer. If Smollett lied, he should suffer the consequences to include public outrage.

To be clear, the people vulnerable to the hate crime he alleged are the voices that matter most here. Everyone else needs to handle America’s hate crime crisis, which is rising under the worst leadership in the White House.

Smollett is not a test case. On this subject, test cases are unnecessary. The MAGA mob is hateful with their words, dogma, and deeds. Social media platforms should dismiss them and their leader.

Anyone who needs further proof will never have enough. Even if this case in point is wrong, there are other cases for the point. Too many cases.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration demonizes Brown people. Meanwhile, to add to the insults, Trump slashed and redirected the funding and personnel to combat white terrorism. We don’t need Smollett’s attack to be real to deal with what is true.

Separate from the alleged attack, there are others who fear if Smollett is lying, his lies are a setback for the victims of hate crimes. I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

People stuck on Smollett’s lie were never with the vulnerable. You can’t set back people who aren’t with you. People in motion will stay in motion, and people at rest will stay at rest. Let them. The possibility that Smollett lied is not a force so strong that it counteracts all the other evidence about hate crimes or the MAGA mob. It just doesn’t.

To call Smollett’s possible lie “damaging” is a call to respectability politics. It is the need for a spotless lamb to deal with the issues at hand. If Smollett lied, it’s not damaging, it’s damn wrong.

America doesn’t have a substantial problem with the victims of hate crimes creating hoaxes. Lies about hate crimes are outliers. We can leave them out and still have too many to count. If anyone doesn’t believe accusers because of Smollett — that’s on them.

So, if Jussie Smollett lied, I mind. But I’m not blind to the issues that are so clear to see. I know that’s not just me.

Right?