The attack on Jussie Smollett is a craven and heartless attempt to capitalise on Smollett’s marginalisation and amplify his loneliness.
For the majority of his life, Smollett has lived under constant surveillance by police. The cameras in his neighbourhood weren’t just for his own protection – they are there to watch you, so you have to be.
As racial and economic inequality have made pockets of the US even poorer and more segregated, Smollett has become one of the most visible victims of the black lives matter movement.
Getty – Contributor 4 Jussie Smollett has a grudge against the city of Chicago which is trying to arrest him for allegedly making a false report
His experience of police harassment was documented in his 2015 autobiography, appropriately titled “The Forgotten Man.”
In the book, he describes a 2014 routine arrest at 4am at the Tribune Tower and describes many of the indignities he suffered at the hands of the Chicago police.
Throughout the story Smollett attempts to minimise the role of racial and economic inequality in his experience, often blaming himself.
He is self-hating.
His trauma is partly a function of factors that are entirely outside his control. The racist, punitive policies that were implemented in the United States in the 20th century, such as mass incarceration, our drug laws, public health care, and school systems are all designed to make black people like him feel ashamed and unworthy of dignity.
4 Jussie Smollett, from right, played the role of Jamal Lyon, on the Fox musical series Empire
As a black gay man, Jussie Smollett has also dealt with the demonisation of queer black men which lies at the heart of homophobia in America.
Activists have long worked to fight homophobia in the LGBT community. They have also worked to abolish the discriminatory laws in that same community.
The police have taken a moralistic approach to police brutality – and I believe Smollett has received one, too.
Meanwhile, Jussie Smollett has become a perfect example of how our movement has failed.
As a gay person, he has felt isolated and alienated from the black community in Chicago and the rest of the United States.
CameraPress 4 Jussie Smollett looked shocked when the police showed up at his house in Chicago
But he has not expressed this on the stage. He has not spoken out against black men who have been harmed in society because of their sexuality, race or gender identities.
He has supported other performers who have been involved in efforts to equate their sexual orientation with their criminal behaviour.
As a gay man, he has not stood in solidarity with other men whose lives have been ruined by homophobic hate crimes.
And now, by staging a false hate crime, Smollett has damaged his own community even further.
Maybe Jussie Smollett’s experience is the sum total of black lives matter. But the real victims of hate crimes are the many black gay men around the world who suffer, every day, verbal and physical threats because of who they are.
Has Jussie Smollett shown us anything new about the power of hate crimes against gay men?
Now that Smollett has been charged with criminal harassment, what is he hoping to achieve in all of this?
So far, he hasn’t answered that question.
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So it is our shared responsibility to confront and dismantle the social and political systems that fuel hate crimes against queer black men, as well as other marginalized communities.
I will say this: The outrage of all people of conscience against this incident and against the culture of homophobia that has defined our movement is immense.
Every single one of us needs to find the strength to demand more from ourselves, our community