Separating the artist from the art has become a primary concern of our time, with many A-list Hollywood actors and high-profile sportsmen facing accusations and controversy over a morally dubious or even a downright illegal thing. Can it be done? Some say accusations are just that and that until a rigorous investigation is launched, the accused are innocent until proven guilty. This seems to be the case with Jussie Smollett, an actor on “Empire,” who allegedly paid two people, Abel and Ola Osundairo, to stage a racist, homophobic attack. The evidence right now leans against Smollett, but the investigation is still going on. Smollett is still not pleading guilty.
He had gotten a threatening letter in January, which comprised magazine clippings spelling out, “You will die black fag.” However, after the latest incident, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has confirmed that Smollett had actually sent the letter to himself to get attention.
This isn’t the first time an attack has been orchestrated in such a manner as to cause a political or a social division; this attack vilifies the MAGA constituents, and publicity stunts can sometimes be the bread-and-butter for some cynical celebrities.
However, for someone who has been involved in activism, fighting for the rights of LGBTQ and black community, an act of this kind does not seem befitting. Some reports say it was incited by Smollett’s dissatisfaction with his salary.
Whatever the inciting cause, this conundrum had, and will have, significant effects on politics. Each party, Democrat and Republican, is keen to see the development of this case. There are a lot of unknown variables floating around right now, and Johnson said as much.
He also criticized the media for rushing to the scene and reporting what they believed were the facts prematurely, which, for a reactionary crowd, was raw meat for piranhas. Johnson knew how this would affect the city of Chicago and how the real victims of these crimes would now have to climb that extra rung of skepticism to be heard.
“This announcement today recognizes that ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I’m left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?” Johnson said. "Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who is in need of support by police and investigators, as well as the citizens of this city.”
And he is right. The problem now is how media outlets jump at the chance for a juicy story. It is not entirely their fault, as competitive TV scheduling means they have to one-up their competitors, but one has to treat cases like this with sensitivity. And this is important not just for the media but also for everyone. One has to be as considerate and careful as the Chicago Police Department while handling Smollett’s case.