Superintendent of the Chicago Police, Eddie Johnson, held a press conference outlining the charges and expressing a lot of opinions about the actor and his motives, who is now a felony suspect.
February 21, 2019

Every aspect of this Jussie Smollett story just sucks. So please don't get your hopes up for any semblance of satisfaction or resolution, here.

Actor Jussie Smollett has turned himself in to Chicago police, and been charged with disorderly conduct for alleging a hate crime against him, which is a felony charge that could come with 3 years in prison. The police investigation lasted approximately three weeks and involved over 20 detectives. Chicago Police's Superintendent, Eddie Johnson, held an hour-long press conference to outline the charges against Smollett, (staging a horrific hate crime against himself, involving paying two Nigerian brothers to attack him) and explain how the investigation proceeded and arrived at the conclusion it did. Supt. Johnson also displayed a great deal of emotion, editorializing both broadly and specifically on the case and on the character of Jussie Smollett.

It was very clear Supt. Johnson was confident in the police work, and it's as likely as not he has much to be proud of in the way his team did its work. He did say that Smollett had the presumption of innocence, like all people charged with crimes in the U.S. are supposed to. On the other hand, how trustworthy is the Chicago Police Department? This is the same CPD of LaQuan McDonald fame. Murder and corruption of the worst kind, on the part of the people who are charged with protecting the innocent AND the guilty.

Supt. Johnson was visibly angry and emotional at the toll this has taken on the vulnerable communities, should the charges be proven true. He is right to hold these marginalized communities with care and protectiveness. One hopes he does it with this much passion all the time. Simultaneously, I see members of the LGBQT and Black communities who wish the CPD would pay as much attention to hate crimes as they did to this one.

At one point, Supt. Johnson said he wished the media paid this much attention to the victims of Chicago's shootings. That confused me, because in my experience as a white person trying to be less racist, I view with more scrutiny, not less the media outlets that focus on Chicago's shootings, (and Baltimore's, btw,) because they're usually framed in the deflective "Well, what about Black-on-Black crime?" sorts of ways. We see that so often in privileged white society — even in liberal circles — when we try to argue for reasonable gun control. So I was taken aback slightly when Supt. Johnson said he wished the media would focus more on the victims of shootings. I'm not sure we need to add media attention to the RWNJ fantasy that Chicago is a war zone.

A reporter asked Supt. Johnson at the end of the presser what he though justice would look like, here. His answer was fair and professional: an apology, an admission, financial reparations, etc.This is one of those stories, though, where no one wins. Everyone comes out worse, and no one gets real justice. If you are someone who does derive any kind of satisfaction from any aspect of this story, consider your own contribution to the myriad problematic circumstances that brought us here to begin with. If we are not members of one of the marginalized groups directly affected by this, perhaps we might take a beat before issuing a condemnation of any of the players involved here, and simply hold non-judgmental space for them to deal with the consequences of this fallout.

None of this, NONE of it is to say that this investigation has proceeded incorrectly, or its conclusions are wrong. It very well may be the case that Smollett is guilty. And even if Smollett is NOT guilty, I don't think Supt. Johnson's emotions are necessarily misplaced or inappropriate. I'm a white lady, people. I don't get to opine on those matters. MY responsibility in this mess is to do what I can about the real tragedy in this story: that the climate in which such a crime could take place exists in our country. The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report yesterday that hate crimes are up 30% over the last four years. People who report them are routinely dismissed and belittled, not to mention targeted and further harassed. That is no hoax.

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