A letter to Jussie Smollett

It must’ve sounded good at the time.

I mean, even though you probably thought it through, you didn’t think it through well enough — your apparent early panic was a little warning sign when the mayor and the police declared they’d spare no expense in money or manpower to track down the losers who attacked you. That must’ve worried you even more than your lack of superstar status, huh?

I wanted to weigh in on this topic several times over the last three years but I held my pen — I really, really, really wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt.

It turns out, the attacker was you. You destroyed your credibility, your career — your name is a punchline across the globe. Now, I don’t really care what you do to yourself. But, Jussie, you didn’t stop there.

The biggest problem with your trial was your persecutors — oops, prosecutors — could logically explain every weird little coincidence that happened on that cold January night in 2019. Why else would Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, two brothers you know and regularly interact with, be lurking in your street at 2:45 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2019? It’s been a while since I lived in Chicago but the Streeterville neighborhood must have seemed a good place to stage the action, with all the cameras around, huh? Even though pretty much no one would describe it as “MAGA country?”

According to the Associated Press (AP), former Chicago detective Michael Theis told jurors he initially viewed you as a victim of a homophobic and racist attack. He said police absolutely didn’t rush to judgment. He said investigators were excited when they were able to track the movements of two suspected attackers. He said the case had become international news and that “everybody from [then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel] on down” wanted the awful case solved.

But after police arrested the Osundairos, the brothers spilled the beans, Jussie. Detectives did what detectives do and looked hard at the Osundairos’ story. As luck would have it, their narrative checked out, much of it confirmed using GPS, cellular records, video evidence and logs from ride-sharing services. Theis described how detectives were able to confirm that you picked the Osundairo brothers up days before the attack to drive them around your neighborhood and discuss what would happen. Theis said police found no instance where they concluded the Osundairos were lying. No wonder you refused to hand over your cell phone!

“At the end… we determined that the alleged hate crime was actually a staged event,” Theis said.

Jurors watched surveillance video on which the Osundairos bought supplies, including a red hat they told police you wanted them to wear so they’d resemble supporters of then-President Donald Trump along with a piece of clothesline later tied into that abominable noose. Jurors saw a video capture that showed you returning home the night of the alleged attack with the clothesline-noose draped loosely over your shoulder. Since the noose was wrapped around your neck when the cops showed up, they believed you retied it.

Man, it sickens me just recounting this.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb said 26 Chicago officers spent 3,000 hours at a cost of well over $100,000 trying to solve a fake crime. That’s a chunk of cash, Jussie, but the money was hardly the main issue. Webb went on to say, “…a fake crime that denigrates what a real-hate crime is and to use these meanings and symbols that are so important in our society. It’s clear why the police would take it seriously.” Turns out they took it a little too seriously, huh, Jussie?

Then there was your motivation. An actor, singer and filmmaker who had a little talent but, dang it, not enough people noticed. For a guy who called himself “the gay Tupac,” you clearly believed you were deserving of a whole lot more public adoration than you were getting. What better way to grab it than to boost your name into the stratosphere by playing the real-life role of a gay Black man who endured a vicious racist attack on a bitterly cold Chicago street?

They keep saying your biggest role was on a show called “Empire” but I suspect that role paled when compared to your version of street theater.

I had no idea who you were — I’d neither heard your name nor seen your work. In this sense, I suppose your plan worked beyond your wildest expectations. Pretty much all of North America and beyond knows who Jussie is now.

You struck me as having a paradoxical mix of equal parts arrogance and hesitance — like you thought you were a big cheese but also had a lot of doubts about yourself. Now, I’ve never met you and likely never will so it’s not really my place to psychoanalyze you. Still, if lay-psychologist me could sense your shaky self-esteem propped up by your disproportionate conceit, I can only imagine what a professional would deduce. It’s almost like you’d have been better off admitting what you did, then pleading some mental defect as an excuse. Some of the public you so badly wanted to transfix would’ve sucked that right up. “I hate what Jussie did, but the poor guy was suffering [insert mental defect]!”

Here’s the bottom line, Jussie. I don’t spend much time following celebrity news — in fact, considering our ancestors correctly ranked actors right around where they valued prostitutes, I pretty much avoid all the smutty gossip you guys generate.

But when you leveraged your race in a colossally stupid and selfish attempt to boost your name recognition and popularity, you spat in the faces of thousands of people of color who actually suffered. You planted millions of seeds of doubt in the minds of people who are badly needed in the fight against racism. You single-handedly damaged efforts to combat the very real racism that you cheapened with your grotesque narcissism. If that wasn’t enough, you further inflamed a divided country when you made your attackers Trump supporters.

Your self-absorption is unreal.

I cannot speak for any person of color, Jussie, not even you. But I hope you find some speck of regret deep inside you. I hope you find a way to start undoing the damage you did, the mess you made.

You probably won’t do prison time but I sure hope you get saddled with a decade of community service and a hefty bill from the City of Chicago.

If I thought you had half the talent you seem to believe you have, I’d suggest you could mentor some troubled kids or something. But, no. That’d take maturity, humility and maybe a little remorse.

Well, Jussie, there’s always the appeal.

Photocomposite © Dominick D via Wiki CC SA2.0; Chicago P.D.

10 Replies to “A letter to Jussie Smollett”

  1. “I wanted to weigh in on this topic several times over the last three years but I held my pen — I really, really, really wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt.”
    That’s a long time to suspend reason and simple fact checking.
    But credit to you for only taking 3 years, unlike so many media types who are shocked to learn that Chicago is indeed not MEGA country and they look like fools again.

    Now do Darrell Brooks.

    1. Less suspension of reason and simple fact-checking than waiting for adjudication. If Smollett had been acquitted, it’d have been difficult to call him out.

      As to Darrell Brooks, I’ve started a bit on him several times. People like him (and Ethan Crumbley and so many others) are strong arguments against the lunacy of “defunding the police.” If we want a relatively orderly society, we need the police. While I support meaningful police reform, defunding or abolishing the police is the pinnacle of blind ignorance.

  2. In my mind “Meaningful police reform” means that the law officers job gets more dangerous and criminals don’t get removed from society, hence we get Darrell Brooks.
    As to Ethan Crumbley, I can’t fathom what goes through the mind of these kids, almost exclusively boys I might add. But the signs are always there before the act happens and his parents will pay a heavy price for not securing that weapon. The school officials failed to check his backpack when they had cause and reason to do so.

    1. Agreed on the second part, to the letter.

      As to the first part, here’s my take on “meaningful police reform.” It’s based on the proposals of an actual chief of police who currently functions as a national lobbyist via the Center for Policing Equity — it’s not an unworkable leftist fantasy, which would serve no one except criminals. See: https://matthewmeador.com/2021/10/15/changing-the-face-of-policing/

      I would be interested to hear your take on it.

  3. A couple points.
    Are you sure this organization isn’t more “leftist fantasy”? Below is the pop-up from there website. Including an image of a man wearing BLM gear, another image of clenched fists raised to the sky. They also are funded by George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, but to what degree I’m not certain. Any degree in my mind is problematical.

    “As the call for reimagined public safety has grown louder, our work must accelerate. The Center for Policing Equity has always centered vulnerable communities through the most effective means at our disposal. Now, the nation is calling into question core assumptions about who and what keeps us safest.”
    Now Let’s take BLM for example. By now you must know that the 2 founders of the organization describe themselves as “trained Marxists”, their words not mine. These people are race hustlers, you know how I know? They never talk about black on black crime, they never protest about innocent blacks being gunned down by gangs. There’s just no money in it for them.
    I’m 58- near your age I’m guessing, so we learned about Dr. Martin Luther King and his vision of a color blind society. Do you think these people would agree that being judged by the content of one’s character is preferred over the color of their skin?
    You say in your piece that Darian Greene is a rarity because he wants to be a cop. Matt you live in a majority white state with and in an even more majority white town so your perspective is perhaps skewed. Majority Black communities will have a much higher percentage of BIPOC officers, not to mention elected officials which Oregon greatly lacks.
    Also I find this sentence offensive ” When it comes to policing in America, the first thing we need to do is get rid of the mall security guards. What I mean is that the not-too-bright white guys who desperately need to wear a badge have no place in our justice system.” I mean why put a “white ” label on it? Anyone of any race could be that person.
    Full discloser, I’ve read your opinion pieces in the News Register for about as long as you have been a contributor. My parents moved to Mac in 1978 and subscribed since the time of their passing in 2017, for years they would save the papers for when I would come to visit and I would read them at home. I continued on up until this month and then decided like cutting the COMCAST cable it was time to cut them off as well. They are in the tank for the teachers unions and the strangle hold the progressive left on Oregon in general.
    So like you “really, really, really wanted to give Jessie the benefit of the doubt” I’ve got to trust my lying eyes every now and again.
    The police do a very dangerous job and our civil society is in rapid decline, so I’ll pass on the whole “reimagining policing” and all the other word salad focus tested phrases that they parrot.
    For me I’ll continue to thank them for their service when I see them.

    1. Yes, I live in an overwhelmingly white area but…

      I am from Southern California, specifically Orange County, which went majority Latino back in the 1980s. I’ve lived all over, including Chicago, a city with a white demographic distinctly smaller than that of Oregon.

      My father served as a police officer in Southern California, rising to the rank of detective when I was a kid. This was in the 1960s, when standard kit included a helmet, to be worn at all times, even in the relative safety of a patrol car — yes, all uniformed officers wore helmets in those troubled times, not just the motor officers.

      My dad left law enforcement until his retirement, when he was re-certified and is now the oldest sworn deputy sheriff in a large county sheriff’s office. He’s in peak physical condition and he shoots straight.

      So, possibly surprisingly, someone close to me currently wears a badge. More than one, in fact. My cousin is a police officer in a medium-sized municipal department and my uncle serves as a police chaplain.

      I am not ignorant of the difficulties and unimaginable stress that comes with a job in law enforcement. I am on the record (more than once) acknowledging that law enforcement is likely the most difficult, thankless job on the planet these days.

      When I address the Black lives matter movement, you’ll note the capitalization style I use: the phrase “Black lives matter” is a noble phrase, a simple reminder to those who need to hear it. Some people try to add an “only” in there, using it as a justification to be angry that people have the chutzpah to state that only Black lives matter. This is absurd. The statement stands on the strength of its three words. For those who must add a word, try the word “too” instead. As in Black lives matter, too.

      I do not recall ever addressing Black Lives Matter, a corrupt political organization with skewed ideals and contemptible goals. In the larger scheme of things, lobbying organizations often must show public unity when addressing common goals. Whatever the case, speaking only for myself, I dislike and distrust the BLM political organization. But the “Black lives matter” phrase itself is one that needs to be repeated, over and over and over.

      As evidenced by the litany of roadblocks intentionally thrown up in front of Black Americans during the Jim Crow era, no level playing field existed when it came to Black people pursuing and achieving the so-called American dream, as their white peers were doing en masse. I wrote a piece on white privilege that tries to personify the small and not-so-small hurdles Black people face constantly that white people don’t even think about. (I dislike the words “white privilege” because they put people immediately on the defensive, if they are unaware of the term’s actual meaning.)

      On to ol’ Jussie: I did want to give him the benefit of the doubt but less because he was unlikable-and-not-particularly-talented Jussie than because it’s unthinkable that someone could stoop so low as to stage a fake racist attack, leveraging his race to boost his career.

      As to Darian Green, he lives in a major U.S. city, much larger than Portland — I wasn’t tying him to Oregon demographics but mea culpa, I didn’t specify otherwise.

      Finally, the troublesome sentence: “When it comes to policing in America, the first thing we need to do is get rid of the mall security guards. What I mean is that the not-too-bright white guys who desperately need to wear a badge have no place in our justice system.” You’re absolutely right that it could’ve stood without “white” and I should’ve written it that way. But I am inclined to stand behind it (at least partly) because I believe doing exactly what those words describe is crucial to real reform. Still, you’re right, I should’ve omitted the word “white.”

      I appreciate you reading my crap, even if you disagree with some/most of it. Even more, I appreciate your willingness to disagree civilly.

      For the record, demands like “defund the police” and similar are ridiculous but they did work to capture the public’s attention. When I talk about police reform, it’s essentially taking policing to the next level which, in my opinion, is not a partisan or anti-police goal. In fact, as outlined, it should make policing both easier and more equitable — plus, in my mind, law enforcement compensation would get a necessary boost.

  4. Thanks for the well thought out response. I don’t write for a living so that took me some time.
    Funny that you bring up the piece that most triggered me to write to the paper.
    My email to Jeb Bladine.

    Dear sir,

    1st off I knew pretty much where your guest writer was going to go as soon as I read your “Among the last of the moderate Republicans” tag.

    Mr. Meador must have lived a very sheltered life if ” How am I going to raise a Black son in this world” is the most heart wrenching question he’s ever heard or been asked.
    I’ve asked this to you in the past, but it bears repeating. Do you really think that this is what your subscribers are looking for from your paper?
    I’ve also said this before, I can read this kind of sophomoric white guilt piece about a “world that doesn’t want a Black man to survive” all day long at the Huffington Post for free.

    Too bad Mr. Meador’s friend doesn’t have my cell # or email, because I would have given him a short list of current and historical Black men in American who overcame real adversity and achieved greatness.

    Booker T Washington
    Fredrick Dougles
    Granville T. Woods
    Jackie Robinson
    Ben Carson
    Clarence Thomas
    Walter Williams

    These men have amazing life stories to help mentor a young Black man. And that’s just off the top of my head.
    I would also encourage him to read anything that Dr. Thomas Sowell has written and nothing that Barack Obama had written for him.
    So he can do the easy thing and raise a Black boy blaming society for all it’s ills and be a victim, or raise a Black man, proud and strong who understands how lucky is to be born in this great nation.
    With all it’s faults…
    Graham Parkinson

    I would be interested to hear your take on it.

    Also, If you haven’t watched Clarence Thomas documentary “Created Equal” his story is truly amazing. Amazon made sure it was unavailable for purchase for months, Including Black History month. Why? Because Joe Biden was the hatchet man along with Ted Kennedy who tried to keep this great black man off the Supreme Court by trying to assonate his character. It would have reminded many people right before the presidential election just who Joe Biden is.
    Now to Jim Crow laws- Democrats didn’t call it the “Solid South” for nothing.
    Democrats blocked every attempt to eradicate these racist laws.
    Re-segregating the military and civil service Woodrow Wilson.
    The history of the Democrat party is replete with racism yet who does the BLM organization align with?

    Thanks for your time

    1. Sorry for the delay. I sometimes see letters addressing the essays I write for the News-Register and I sometimes don’t. I hadn’t seen this one.

      As luck would have it, I showed my friend — my Black friend who asked the wrenching question you casually mock — your letter. My friend asked this question at the height of the racial unrest and violence a couple years ago.

      My friend is a West Point graduate, served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army and holds at least two college degrees. My friend’s father — also a Black man, as luck would have it — retired as a full colonel in the U.S. Army. He now practices law in a major U.S. city. He is one of half a dozen attorneys in the family. My friend’s sister — the Black woman who died suddenly, leaving my friend an unexpected Black son — was a lawyer who hosted a popular radio show in a major city in the Midwest and was a regular contributor to a major cable news channel. The family also includes four physicians. One point of pride for the family is four women — yes, Black women — earned college degrees in the 1950s.

      My friend was going to respond to your crude attempt to educate him about being Black but, in the end, the unbelievably presumptuous and arrogant quality of your words convinced him there was no chance for erudite dialogue.

      I am convinced it’s not a good idea for him to have your email or cell number, as you suggested.

  5. Matt,
    Perhaps much is lost in the translation between two people who have never met face to face and only swapped emails back & forth.
    I read your article again and I read my reply the the News Register editorial again. And let me say to you again that I don’t write for a living so perhaps the crudeness comes from that. But there’s not much I would have changed in that letter more directed at you than your friend, but at the time I was unaware of your site.
    Your friend’s resume is impressive indeed and his families list of professional and educational accomplishments are inspiring. But you see Matt, it proves my point not yours. These people didn’t let my “white privilege” or anyone else’s stand in their way on the road to success.
    I don’t subscribe to identity politics and would much preferer that individuals be judged on their actions and not lumped into groups of skin color. With that being said, we all have a heritage & ancestry that we should be conscious of and educated about, on who and what came before our generation. But those events that came before me are not automatically transferred to me to be used as a cudgel in disagreement when reason has reached it’s cross-roads.
    From your piece ” What my friend meant was: how am I going to shepherd this Black youth through the labyrinth of complicated lessons that makes a Black man thrive in a world that doesn’t seem to want him to even survive?”
    So not what he said just your interpretation adding “in a world that doesn’t want him to survive.” Matt, I find that sentence to be needlessly hyperbolic and just not true and that’s what made me send the email in the 1st place. Is this the same world that elected a black president twice?
    And I don’t even understand what you meant by saying that I was trying to educate him on being black.
    If I had to guess I would say that your friend’s new found son is doing very well since Sept 2020 and is well on a path to his own success story and nobody will be able to stand in his way with a support group like that.

    I hope that you share my response with your friend.
    P.S. did you watch the Clarence Thomas documentary “Created Equal”

    1. Graham, I am awaiting further input from my friend before I add anything. But I agree that text-only communication — that is, communication without the hugely important nuance contained in human body language — is sharply inferior to real-life conversation.

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