Justice Not Served: Jussie Smollett and Why He Doesn’t Deserve a Free Pass

Olivia Pan ’20

Chief Opinions Editor

After being arrested and charged with staging a fake hate crime, “Empire” actor, Jussie Smollett, unexpectedly had all charges dropped against him by Chicago prosecutors, to the bewilderment and anger of many. However, there were some who quickly jumped to support Smollett and come to his defense, including “Black-ish” actor, Anthony Anderson, who recently spoke out regarding Smollett’s 2019 NAACP Image Award’s nomination. Anderson stated, “I hope he wins…I’m happy for him that the system worked for him in his favor because the system isn’t always fair, especially for people of color. So I’m glad it worked out for him.” I was floored by this statement, not only because Anderson is defending a person who wasted countless police resources and fooled the public into believing he was the victim of a vicious hate crime. Mostly, I was perplexed because Anderson is ignorantly justifying Smollett’s crime. Anderson is essentially claiming that because the American justice system has a history of punishing people of color more severely, Smollett deserves to get a free pass on his crime. Anderson is happy that the system “worked out for him.” In other words, Jussie Smollet deserves to get away with staging a hate-crime because people of color deserve to have the system work in their favor for a change. Never mind the fact that he committed a crime and broke the law.

Sorry, Anthony Anderson, but this sentiment defies logic. We need to focus on Smollett’s actual crime, not on his racial identity. Jussie Smollett is not a victim and he certainly deserves to be punished. Are we supposed to believe that the criminal justice system should not punish those who commit crimes, simply because they belong to a minority group of people who often get the short end of the stick when it comes to sentencing?

Women also encounter bias from the justice system. A study conducted by The Chicago Reporter, the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and NPR discovered “that women in Illinois — and in prisons across the country — are disciplined at significantly higher rates than male inmates for mostly minor, subjective infractions.” There’s no question that this is unfair and biased. However, should we excuse criminal actions committed by all women simply because the system is biased against them? I am an advocate for women’s equality and women’s rights, and even I don’t believe that we should do that.

Jussie Smollett will forever be a punchline to a joke, and some may think that is punishment enough. I don’t believe he deserves hard jail-time. I don’t believe that he is incapable of redemption or forgiveness. However, in order to redeem himself, he first needs to come clean about what he did and stop pretending that he is an advocate for people of color and the LGBTQPIA+ community. What he did needs to be taken seriously and not be swept under the rug. False claims, whether they be about hate crimes, rape, or any type of violence, only diminish real victims.

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

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