The Jussie Story

“Jussie’s Story” will make a good (or bad) Lifetime movie. His interview by Oprah will get high ratings. Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels are already fighting for the biopic rights. Buff Nigerians are being recruited for personal training gigs AND getting booked as nefarious characters in the never-ending CSI/criminal drama shows on TV (especially Netflix).

I’m confused by all of it. But, I DO know that the shenanigans involving actor Jussie Smollett (if he did it) didn’t deserve more prison time than all of these co-conspirators from this administration have gotten. The extreme level of the 16 FEDERAL indictments handed down against Jussie for “allegedly” creating his own hate crime just sounded excessive. Yet, overcharging isn’t uncommon.

The Chicago police chief & mayor Emanuel are outraged, I tell you. The mayor called the prosecutors decision to drop the charges a “whitewashing”. He suggested that Jussie was pulled off the hook because of his celebrity and wealth. Remember, it was suggested that Jussie pulled these shenanigans to get attention and better pay. Didn’t Mayor Emanuel know? How ironic that the wealth — that Jussie said wasn’t enough — was still enough to give him the privilege of a criminal pass? Apparently, it was even enough to trump his Blackness. Imagine that. Jussie has been selling himself short.

Two days of community service and a $10,000.00 court cost bill vs decades in jail is all the “punishment” that Jussie got. Did he or didn’t he do it? And, how did the criminal justice system work for or against the state? In our reality show world, I guess we have to watch out for Iyanla, Dr. Phil, People’s Court, Judge Judy to get to the bottom of it all.

“If your in the position of influence and power, you’ll be treated another way. Other people will be treated another way”, says Mayor Emmanuel. Really? Is that news to you? Where has your outrage been around years of criminality within your injustice system? This is news to you, Mr. Mayor? How about the Chicago Police & YOU, who covered up the #LaquanMcDonald murder recording (and countless others)? Your police department (and others across the country) was found to be corrupt during the Obama administration. Of course, the commitment to hold police stations & officers more accountable was stopped by the Trump/Sessions reign.

IF false police reports warrant criminal penalty, then the folks who have made false reports on Black & Brown people deserve similar charges. Same applies to police officers who file false reports on “criminals” they apprehend — - and/or beat or kill. Jussie was involved in something. But, the credibility of the police was still in question too. Too bad Jeff Sessions was around long enough to upend police accountability. We may never know what, Jussie did, since the record was expunged. But, he wasn’t exonerated yet (sound familiar?). Sad that we must go through another criminal situation that is providing more questions than answers. We know the system is broken and rigged tic benefit the privileged — so fix it. These episodic outbursts — which happen only when we don’t like a decision — isn’t how you fix systems that have been broken for years , though. Black people, other people of color and the poor have been victims of broken American systems (education; justice; housing; financial; healthcare; political; etc.) for decades. A recent visit to Cook County Bond Court exposed me to an endless cycle of Black & Brown people going before the judge with court-appointed representation. The poor defendant gets an often over-worked/under-resourced public defender they meet moments before the appearance. That person is tasked with pleading their case — in 2–5 minutes (at best). The only white defendant in my observation had resources to hire a private attorney. Ironically, his case was embezzlement. He was allowed to leave the state to return to work until his trial. The Black, Brown, young, old, men & women without resources were given a bond. If they can’t meet it (most can’t), they end up back in the jail. We watched person after person going through Cook County bond court as if it were a revolving door of injustice. And with each turn, the cash register was ringing for Cook County. Charges against most were minor, but their poverty kept them locked up — and keeps the system well-funded. Money matters as does race. But, sometimes, money will trump race. Sometimes. It’s not good, but it’s ok for those who like injustice. The Chicago Community Bond Fund seeks to make the broken system fairer. It’s a tough task.

There are many whitewashed & broken systems across the country. Who you vote for may commit to end the brokenness, keep these systems as broken (the Who Pays report educates us about the problem) as they are — or make them even worse. Jussies case is closed (for now). But, he certainly got attention that he, allegedly, was craving (no such thing as bad publicity in celebrity-dom, right?). What do you want to see happen in our nation for the rest of us? You can decide.

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