I Don’t Regret Believing Jussie Smollett and I Won’t Apologize

But I’ll admit if I was wrong.

Many of us are feeling bewildered and disturbed by recent, unconfirmed reports that Jussie Smollett orchestrated the brutal attack against himself that occurred in Chicago during the early morning hours of January 29, 2019.

Smollett, through his attorney, vehemently denies these allegations and holds true to his initial claims.

In the days since these leaks surfaced, I have found myself struggling to deal with the possible ramifications of my public support for Smollett.

Many right-wing social media personalities who challenged my support have now told me that I owe them an apology. After much self reflection and soul searching, I say to them: Take every damn seat.

I will never regret believing Smollett, or any victim, and I have nothing to apologize for.

Also, we don’t have the full story yet!

As I wrote in my first op-ed piece for NewNowNext, “Gay Men, We Need To Talk About Sexual Misconduct,” I come from the school of always believing the victim, whether it be from sexual assault, violent hate crimes, hazing, or bullying—until proven that I shouldn’t. It’s the safest way to ensure we protect real victims.

Of course, this means there’s a .001% chance that we find ourselves proven wrong, but we can’t let that outweigh the importance of supporting victims in their most vital time of need, especially victims who come from already marginalized groups like African Americans, the LGBTQ community, and other minorities.

The original story of the attack received international coverage and elicited immediate support for Smollett. It also received its fair share of scrutiny, even from members of the LGBTQ community and media. From the beginning, many were saying that something didn’t feel right and that we weren’t getting the whole story.

I was torn, as I could understand people’s skepticism of a story that kept feeling like it had more holes than solid proof. I then reminded myself that this is why many victims are reluctant to come forward if they lack concrete evidence of their abuse. I also reminded myself that LGBTQ hate crimes are an increasingly common occurrence in America, correlating with the rise of Trumpism and the special brand of hatred and racism that accompanies it.

The FBI and the Department of Justice released findings that showed a 17% increase in hate crimes since Trump entered the race to become President. The data shows that the number of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes had been dropping steadily since 2008 under President Obama, and made a sharp reversal under Trump.

– 5,850 hate crimes in 2015.
– 6,121 hate crimes in 2016.
– 7,175 hate crimes in 2017.

Data also shows there was an alarming 86% increase in anti-LGBTQ homicides from 2016-17.

– 52 people killed by anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in 2017 (not including mass violence events like Pulse nightclub).
– 71% were people of color.
– 52% were trans or gender nonconforming.
– 40% were trans women of color.

And, of course, these numbers do not reflect the countless attacks that go unreported.

FBI

Many on the right were immediately defensive and went on the attack when it was reported that Smollett reported that it was “two white men” who attacked him, and that they screamed “MAGA country!”

Through a modernized game of telephone, now adapted and amplified by social media, right-wing Twitter spread misinformation like wildfire.

The Chicago police department made efforts to correct any false information surrounding the case, but since everyone on Twitter thinks they’re a modern day Jessica Fletcher, people were concocting their own loose theories of what happened and presenting them as fact. Privately, some wondered what Smollett stood to gain from lying. Press? Publicity for a new album? Mental illness? Nothing made sense.

Many of us publicly supported Smollett as a victim of a hate crime. We rallied around a victim from within our own community and did exactly what we should do, and we should never apologize for that.

We reacted to the information that was available and believed the best in a person.

If the investigation proves that Smollett lied, many LGBTQ people worry that it will embolden Trump supporters to have an epic gloat-fest. I say let them! They live in glass houses and should be very careful to put on shoes before celebrating on top of so much broken glass and shards of hypocrisy.

I was taught that if I was wrong I should admit it right away. I actually don’t find this difficult to do, but it’s not a common occurrence with Trump voters.

While we will quickly admit if we misplaced our support, many of them still refuse to, despite mounds of evidence.

At this very moment, Trump supporters are filing their taxes and waking up to the realization that the GOP tax plan was a scam; Mexico isn’t paying for the useless wall; Hillary isn’t in prison (many of Trump’s cohorts are going to be, though); our farmers are going bankrupt and our coal miners are losing their jobs. Yet, these folks still show up to rallies and scream “Build that wall!” and “Lock her up!” Instead of admitting their mistake, they dig their heels deeper into the quicksand of corruption and lies known as Trumpland.

Smollett claims that he was the victim of a brutal hate crime, and until the police confirm otherwise I stand with my initial belief in him. I don’t do it to save face for myself, I do it to stand in solidarity with the numerous victims of LGBTQ hate crimes and homicides—reported and unreported—around the world.

And I will not be shamed into turning my back on them.

Scott Nevins is an award-winning TV personality and host, comedian, political/news contributor, LGBTQ and HIV awareness activist, and godfather.
@ScottNevins