How Jussie Smollett Abused His Black Privilege

How Jussie Smollett Abused His Black Privilege
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Maybe I’m romanticizing a bit but 2018 had a lit ass Black History Month. 2019 though? Kind of trash, to be honest. This is a terrible sequel so far and not the Black History Month we asked for, but it’s the one we got.

Among the notable missteps this month (one more time for the kids in the back: issa no on blackface and nooses), Jussie Smollett has put the icing on the cake with his allegedly self-staged attack in which he pointed the blame at an anonymous target with a few stereotypically racist symbols. It was the anti-black history moment that nobody needed right now.

While I’m still having trouble making the connection between “I’m not getting paid enough” and sympathy points for being physically assaulted — surely in 45’s America it is easy enough to find legitimate examples of micro-aggressive to overtly racist behavior — I also don’t have the energy to delve into the psychology behind it, so I digress.

For me, tucked away within the sensationalism of this narrative is an entirely different point to take issue with: the abusive of black privilege.

Now, I realize that I stand in the minority of an unpopular position when I suggest that there is such a thing as black privilege. But I do believe it exists within the narrow confines of the conversation about American (maybe even global) culture.

When we live in a society where the more melanin-ated among us are the only ones creating the trending music, fashion, and vocabulary du jour, there must be an acknowledgment of the power in that; to ignore it subverts the privilege in and of itself. I’m fully aware that this exercise in privilege can be as trivial and petty as the power to say all the words in every rap song because you are part of the in-group. Or the God-given ability to born with certain physical attributes the likes of which others might seek body modifications or make-up for (look how many of them want to look like us, except they don’t want to really be us because…..actual racism). But it can also be as significant as the ability to cry racism and be the assumed victim in nearly every instance.

That’s exactly what Jussie (allegedly) did. He cried wolf or in political speak, he “played to his base” with details that seemed all too convenient — a noose, a MAGA hat, and a black, LGBTQ-leaning man being assaulted to the point that he was hospitalized. It was the perfect match of details to spark outrage and draw sympathy from the likes of Kamala Harris to the President, with anyone who didn’t profess this sympathy being automatically demonized.

The idea that this alleged attack could merely be exploitation on a very real American trope is an insult to our collective intelligence and a dangerous power game to play. In my mind, it’s no different than women who use allegations of rape to silence men or those who blame alcohol and drugs for their otherwise seemingly natural inclinations (Roseanne anyone?).

If the allegations are true, Jussie has thrown more gas on a bridge that we are attempting to rebuild, not burn. Nobody wants this smoke. He’s undermined himself and makes it harder for the next person who might be an actual victim to be given any credibility. Are we gonna be able to keep the same energy next time? More significantly, he used his privilege, his celebrity, and his platform, not to advance a collective action, but for a check.

There is simply no apology for that.

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