Jussie Smollett trial proves things are not about him; they’re about us

I haven’t yet been filled with such despair since, in the throes of the end of a tumultuous summer, I had to tell my sisters that our lives as Black people were about to cease. It didn’t matter who came first. I never wanted to have to do this, but as a Black woman, I feared the whole thing could be ripped from our hands in our stride. I knew it, but let’s be honest here; this kind of reality isn’t one we commonly see, so a little perspective wouldn’t hurt.

It’s hard to know how to process the passing of the Jussie Smollett saga, and it won’t ever be the same for anyone. While the severity of the situation remains unknown, what the world has learned already isn’t lost on anyone.

In an open letter to her supporters Friday, Smollett said he’s been “innocent from the beginning.” A good perspective on how we, the community, can move forward in such an egregious situation. Though he was acquitted this week, there are still a lot of unanswered questions — questions that will likely remain as long as Chicago chooses to investigate. But one thing is for sure: We’ve already been jolted by these developments.

I have never known if my friend Jussie would commit to us — to my community, to my age group — after we convinced him that his main goal is to improve and bring progress to the world. I’ve never known if he would stand up for me in times when I felt degraded. I never knew if his heart was firmly black. He is a flawed person who has been wronged in a serious way. But none of this is his fault.

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Each time I think of the tragic events that occurred last winter, I find myself wondering when I first confronted Jussie about the abhorrent, small-minded “mentorship.” I realized then that Jussie understood me. I recognized that this wasn’t about Jussie — this was about the system. I recognize that he didn’t have anything to do with the attack — he was harmed by the cruelty of it all. I see I have the same responsibility to Jussie in the future.

Jussie has a platform that makes us the beneficiaries of his longevity, and while that’s great, it means we were also powerful enough to use that position to make a change — and I’m not looking for him to sign on to your cause just because he has a small amount of attention. I want to get involved when he invites me. I want to collaborate, I want to listen, I want to partner and most importantly, I want to care.

We can move forward, even though we know that Jussie didn’t do it — and that’s important to realize. It also means we can remain peaceful — in the face of racism and violence — and that our anger doesn’t define us. And finally, we can have hope, even when we know we still have the fight ahead of us.

It can’t all be over now. We’re going to have to continue to demand representation and more inclusion in all aspects of the entertainment industry. We’re going to have to confront misogyny and homophobia and systemic racism every day.

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Jussie deserves to laugh. He deserves to tell jokes with Amy Schumer, and he deserves to play Stronger with Jeff Sessions. I deserve that. I deserve to laugh with Ali Wong; I deserve to laugh with Issa Rae; I deserve to laugh with Harry Belafonte; I deserve to be treated like a person and not the “other.” I need to be in on the joke with all of the love that will be flowing through Hollywood. And that’s a life worth living.

We need to work as hard as we can, and not just work — we need to battle. We can’t just move on, work, work, work. We’ve been called our worst enemies, and yet I’m encouraged by the resilience, strength and love that all of my friends have displayed this past month. I want my community to understand the truth and know that I’m not here to let this movement die — because if we don’t fight, we lose.

Don’t let the truth be shelved for this moment in time. Take a stand.

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