January 29, 2019

Editor's Note, 2/20/2019: In light of the latest reports indicating that Smollett filed a false report and may have staged the entire "attack" himself, I am including this editor's note to inform any readers landing here that a new post with the latest facts will update this one and be linked here when it is published. - Karoli

Was that title too harsh? I'm willing to be wrong, here, I mean, hey, I would love to find out that two white men in MAGA hats DIDN'T yell racial and homophobic slurs at Black and gay actor, Jussie Smollett, DIDN'T attack him, DIDN'T beat him up, DIDN'T pour an unknown chemical substance on his body, and DIDN'T tie a rope around his neck.

But if when we get video evidence, witness testimony, and forensic science to support that what Jussie Smollett says happened to him did, indeed happen to him, I'm sure as sh*t going to keep calling it an attempted lynching. Forgive my cynicism, but it really feels like white people will never learn to accept the mountains upon mountains of evidence stacked up before their very eyes.

I adore Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle - I really do, so I say this with love in my heart. They REALLY PISSED ME OFF today. The way they talked about this harrowing attack on the Empire actor last night, while journalistically "sound" and legally "safe," was spineless and protective of whiteness in a way that was just gross.

They used the most tentative of terms, despite their obvious understanding of the implications. "Police say it could be a hate crime." (Velshi) Even though their reporter, Miguel Almaguer was telling them that the police are looking for two men wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, Ruhle came back later to make sure everyone knew NBC had not independently confirmed that the suspects were wearing MAGA hats. I mean sure, the Chicago PD said so, and their own reporter was reporting it, but let's just protect the station and make sure not to jump to too many conclusions.

So far, only The Cut has gotten it right with its title, saying Smollett was hospitalized "After Racist and Homophobic Attack in Chicago." The rest are only daintily hinting, continuing to use the soft language that protects only the perpetrators of this violence. Kevin Kruse, a historian who has studied and written extensively about white supremacists, went on Twitter to grant journalists permission to call this racist, as nearly every single outlet reporting it is simply calling the crime only "possibly racist," "possibly homophobic, or "possibly racially-charged."

There were some excellent responses, like this one - reminding Kruse not to discount the homophobia...

Then there were those just waiting for the coffee shop interviews...

And those counting down for the "both sides" interviews...

Some had stinging and accurate critiques of the state of journalism...

Finally, the ones that inspired the title of this piece.

Call things what they are.

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