Evidence is mounting against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who police arrested and charged on Thursday for staging a racist and homophobic attack against himself due to grievances over his salary and lack of publicity.
I was quick to believe Jussie because the incident was a dramatization of many of our lived experiences. A perfectly-executed production of the screenplay we pen in our most anxious nightmares. However, what we seldom anticipate by grasping on to these theatrical renditions of our deepest dysphoria is that they might be, in fact, simply cinematic after all.
Islamophobic threats of violence towards hijabis, historically Black churches vandalized and torched by white supremacists and now, a prominent Black gay actor brutalized by a modern day lynching are the latest in a handful of falsely-reported hate crimes following the election of Trump in 2016, according to a New York Times opinion piece by Noah Rothman.
Liberals almost instinctually cling to these validating narratives, just as those on the right peddle myths akin to immigrant criminality following a few crimes committed by folks without documentation. Though staunchly different in ideological foundations, the common tendency shared by liberals and conservatives alike is that we are quick to believe those stories, which validate our interpretation of reality, neglecting any introspection or investigation.
Following these incidents, we usually fall into a cycle of fearful infuriation, a sense of validation and inevitable finger-pointing. Anger and fear, because our deepest anxieties played out in front of our eyes. Validation, because those anxieties no longer lived in our psyches but were in fact legitimate fears. Finger-pointing, because ‘the other side’ was responsible and should have done more to stop it.