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Jussie Smollett Survived Attempted Lynching, But Let's Not Call It A Hate Crime Just Yet

We wouldn't want to leap to conclusions, here.

Editor's Note, 2/20/2019: In light of the latest reports indicating that Smollett filed a false report and may have staged the entire "attack" himself, I am including this editor's note to inform any readers landing here that a new post with the latest facts will update this one and be linked here when it is published. - Karoli

Was that title too harsh? I'm willing to be wrong, here, I mean, hey, I would love to find out that two white men in MAGA hats DIDN'T yell racial and homophobic slurs at Black and gay actor, Jussie Smollett, DIDN'T attack him, DIDN'T beat him up, DIDN'T pour an unknown chemical substance on his body, and DIDN'T tie a rope around his neck.

But if when we get video evidence, witness testimony, and forensic science to support that what Jussie Smollett says happened to him did, indeed happen to him, I'm sure as sh*t going to keep calling it an attempted lynching. Forgive my cynicism, but it really feels like white people will never learn to accept the mountains upon mountains of evidence stacked up before their very eyes.

I adore Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle - I really do, so I say this with love in my heart. They REALLY PISSED ME OFF today. The way they talked about this harrowing attack on the Empire actor last night, while journalistically "sound" and legally "safe," was spineless and protective of whiteness in a way that was just gross.

They used the most tentative of terms, despite their obvious understanding of the implications. "Police say it could be a hate crime." (Velshi) Even though their reporter, Miguel Almaguer was telling them that the police are looking for two men wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, Ruhle came back later to make sure everyone knew NBC had not independently confirmed that the suspects were wearing MAGA hats. I mean sure, the Chicago PD said so, and their own reporter was reporting it, but let's just protect the station and make sure not to jump to too many conclusions.

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So far, only The Cut has gotten it right with its title, saying Smollett was hospitalized "After Racist and Homophobic Attack in Chicago." The rest are only daintily hinting, continuing to use the soft language that protects only the perpetrators of this violence. Kevin Kruse, a historian who has studied and written extensively about white supremacists, went on Twitter to grant journalists permission to call this racist, as nearly every single outlet reporting it is simply calling the crime only "possibly racist," "possibly homophobic, or "possibly racially-charged."

Hi there, journalists!

I'm a historian who's written about white supremacists, so let me assure you that when a violent attack on an African American man involves use of the N-word and the literal placement of a noose around his neck, you can go ahead and call that "racist."

— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) January 29, 2019

And hey, you're not going to believe it, but you can *also* use that term to describe an even wider range of white supremacist activity that doesn't check off every box in the definition of a hate crime.

I know, I know, it might make Tucker Carlson sad. Be brave.

— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) January 29, 2019

There were some excellent responses, like this one - reminding Kruse not to discount the homophobia...

This attack is also homophobic. When journalists reduce it to just racist or just homophobic, they miss the complexities of intersectionality and how this uniquely impacts black LGBTQI. That’s a much more nuanced conversation.

— Kelvin Exum (@camron28551) January 29, 2019

Then there were those just waiting for the coffee shop interviews...

Did you go to a coffee shop in middle America and ask their opinion? Cuz it matters!

— kevinwatts (@kevinwatts) January 29, 2019

And those counting down for the "both sides" interviews...

you mean instead of "ethnically-tinged encounter"? but before we do that we have to interview the family of the attackers in some diner in the midwest and "hear them out"

— George Rosa (@GeorgeRosaJ) January 29, 2019

OR!!!!! Maybe we just need Savannah Guthrie to sit him down and get his side of the story.

You know, because we need to hear both sides.

— The Blacc Man of Steel (@SupermanHopkins) January 29, 2019

Some had stinging and accurate critiques of the state of journalism...

The problem is journalists have bought into the notion that “racist” is an unknowable quality within a person’s heart when it’s really just an adjective describing their actions.

— Scott Moomaw (@aboutamoo) January 29, 2019

Being successfully sued for defamation over using the word “racist” is VERY unlikely. So unlikely, in fact, that tiptoeing around calling a blatantly racist act “racist” shows a pure, deep lack of courage. Let’s all stop sanctioning this toothless excuse.

— Ginny Beesly (@ginnybeesly) January 29, 2019

Finally, the ones that inspired the title of this piece.

Correction: It should also be called an attempted lynching. Racially-motivated #HateCrime fer sure, with the probability that it was also motivated by homophobia noted.

— stephanie clark (@smaqcksaidso) January 29, 2019

That's a lynching! Is that not a lynching???

— Davey porter (@porter_davey) January 29, 2019

Just a little bit more lynchiness and I'm sure they'll all be on board

— The Band, Slade's Tale (@the_usual_guff) January 29, 2019

Call things what they are.

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