The Wisdom of Waiting: What I’ve Learned from the Jussie Smollett Case
We've all heard the phrase "Things aren't always what they seem."
And yet, the truth of those words doesn't seem to keep us from jumping to conclusions, making wild accusations, firing off our opinions and -- in some cases -- making complete fools of ourselves.
The latest case involving "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is a prime example.
On January 29 Smollett -- a black, gay, anti-Trump actor -- claimed that he was approached and attacked by two black men while walking to his apartment at 2am from a Subway shop. Fox News reports that the men -- Smollett claimed -- "called him 'Empire f----- n-----,' beat him, slipped a white rope around his neck, and poured 'an unknown chemical substance' on him, according to the police incident report. As he was punched, Smollett says, one of these men announced: 'This is MAGA country.'"
Following the claims, many jumped to Smollett's defense, making accusations against those involved (or not), claiming bigotry and hate crimes, and calling for justice.
Rapper Cardi B took to Instagram with a profanity-laced message and claim that the police officers involved were racist.
"I’m not gonna say, yet, until he says out his mouth that it was fake and the s--- was staged. I don’t want to completely blame him because… somebody that I was talking to, they said police in Chicago are racist and so they might probably be trying to frame him and make him look like he’s a liar. But if he’s not, then bro, you f----d up.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took to Twitter with a (now-deleted) tweet.
"The racist, homophobic attack on [Smollett] is an affront to our humanity. No one should be attacked for who they are or whom they love. I pray that Jussie has a speedy recovery [and] that justice is served. May we all commit to ending this hate once [and] for all."
Other celebrities to jump to react included singers Ariana Grande, Zendaya and Fergie, actor and writer Shonda Rhimes, writer and commentator Roxanne Gay, and actress Halle Berry.
In the three weeks since the incident, details have come to light and truths have emerged revealing a different story.
As of Thursday, February 21, it appears that Smollett himself orchestrated the "attack." We now know that the two men accused of attacking Smollett are brothers who played extras in "Empire" and were paid a total of $3500 by Smollett to yell homophobic slurs at him, beat him, tie a noose around his neck, and pour bleach on him. Smollett has been arrested by Chicago police and is facing 1-3 years and a potential fine of as much as $25,000 for filing a false police report.
Of course, we know all this in retrospect. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone who reacted with support. Support in a situation like this -- initially -- was entirely appropriate. But I am defining appropriate support and not.
In the cloud of chaos that has hovered over all this, I think the words of Daily Show host Trevor Noah have shone a great deal of truth and wisdom.
"We live in a world where people are too enthusiastic at jumping at stories that confirm their biases instead of just pausing and going 'What do I make of the story?' Forget your political...anythings...does it confirm your biases? That's when I think you need to be more vigilant -- is when it confirms everything you've believed."
I couldn't agree more. I learned long ago to show solidarity, compassion and support in the face of tragedy and injustice. But I've also learned the value of keeping anything further to myself, to wait for the facts, to wait for the details, to wait for the truth. My opinion and perspective matter, of course, just like everyone else's does. But sometimes there's a great deal of wisdom in waiting.
That's my two cents, anyways.