So, yeah, I heard the news this week, and… [*deep sigh*] oy vey. For those who’ve been living under a rock and haven’t been paying attention to the celebrity-driven news, here’s the deal: A certain star (this person) of a certain TV show (this one) contends that he was physically assaulted and beaten up by two dudes in ski masks and hats
designed by in support of You Know Who.
But according to the Chicago Police Department, The Star in Question’s claims unraveled to the point that they’ve charged him with federal disorderly conduct for filing a false assault report. They claim that The Star in Question paid two brothers to stage the assault, all for the want of a bigger paycheck from the show. (Oh? Really?) And with a lack of witnesses and security camera footage unable to corroborate his story, they arrested him this past week. He could face up to three years in prison if convicted for the felony.
If you were paying attention to the news surrounding The Star in Question’s arrest, you’ll notice two things: One, the Chicago Police Department isn’t too pleased that they had to spend all that manpower and taxpayer money on an investigation that, presumably, uncovered a lie by the alleged victim and the missteps he allegedly made. Ditto for those in the late night world; The Daily Show, for example, had a couple of withering takes on the story, which you can see here and here.
The other thing you’ll undoubtedly notice is the characteristics of the now-arrested Star in Question. He is, as the song goes, young, gifted, and black… not to mention openly gay. Those last two traits are used as strikes against him by an unforgiving society who’s used their confirmation bias to prejudge his guilt, possibility doing so as soon as soon as news of his alleged assault surfaced.
Needless to say, most of those delighting over his predicament don’t share the same traits as him. They’re not as young, nowhere near gifted, white as the driven snow… as well as straight, cisgender, male, and of a holier-than-thou religious belief. They are also quick to stand in defense of perpetrators, either alleged or confirmed, who share the same traits as they do, and are even quicker to disdain and/or impose their personal prosecution upon those who do not. Sadly, there’s a long history of this, from accusations based on race that were proven to be complete falsehoods, to the broad backlash against the #MeToo movement, to actual investigations and convictions that are not on the up and up (five words: In the Dark, season two).
With such a long line of clear injustice and unwarranted prejudice against those who face injustice for the gender or ethnicity they are or for who they love, it’s easy (and good) to stand up for them when they’re the victim, especially when the incident is as steeped in cultural politics as this one has been. Case in point: Me. I admit that when news of the alleged assault against The Star in Question came up, I used my own confirmation biases to disdain the nature of the incident — just like many others used their own confirmation biases either for or against. I mean, You Know Who has fostered such an awful culture in his 25+ months in office, and there’s no disputing that.
I think everyone, whether they admit it or not, tends to jump to their own conclusions when an event occurs or a controversial statement is made. And when overwhelming suggestions, evidence, or suggestions of evidence are presented that run counter to their beliefs and, for better or worse, become a bug in the public mindset, they tend to back away from their expressed beliefs and claims.
In at least the above tweet, however, I will not. And apparently I’m not the only one who will not. As these great op-ed pieces from Tre’Vell Anderson in Out and Amanda Kerri in The Advocate remind us, even if a minority victim of a hate crime or abuse is proven to have fabricated the incident, we shouldn’t apologize for standing up for them in the first place. That’s not to defend such a fabrication, of course. But there’s still a need to stand up for them when they cry foul because, noticeably now more than ever, there are still people who will target someone for abuse or assault (or worse) based on that victim’s identity (age, race, gender, sexual, ethnicity, etc.). And there are still people who’ll dismiss that victim’s claims solely because of that victim’s identity. Give them the legitimacy of respect, for the odds are greater that they’re telling the truth.
Oh, about the end of that last sentence: If you don’t believe what I said there, here’s proof that you should: Numbers gathered by Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, as mentioned in this NPR report, state that out of the 21,000 hate crimes estimated to have occurred in the last 3 years, only 48 of them were proven to be hoaxes. That’s less than one percent! And it’s a number that’s decreasing while the number of confirmed hate cases is on the upswing, especially in attacks against the LGBT+ community. So while those with racial and anti-LGBT prejudices will do their best to paint the case against The Star in Question as the rule rather than the exception, they’re clearly wrong.
For sure, The Star in Question will have his day in court, and with that I want to allude to my frequent use of the word “alleged” or similar terms throughout this post: Last time I checked, there’s a court system in our country, one where a judge presides over the trial, attorneys lay out the case and facts, and a jury of a defendant’s peers decide their fate. Any episode of Law & Order verifies that no comedian, talking head, social media diatribe, or even anyone with a badge proves a criminal’s guilt or innocence. “Alleged” means alleged for a reason, so let’s let the man have his day in court, even with the evidence against him.
I must emphasize that if it’s proven beyond all doubt that The Star in Question did fabricate the incident he alleges happen, he must face whatever punishment a court of law must administer upon him. There’s no two ways around that equation. Know, however, that there are bigger issues than this rare, alleged instance of a hate crime fabrication that minority communities, LGBT or otherwise, must face:
- Violence against LGBTs is on the upswing.
- Legislative attempts to shun us, the trans community in particular, are still happening, even if some have been rejected in committee.
- And there is still general scorn heaped upon us, our allies, and other minority groups, all by those who admire You Know Who and his administration’s own admiration for anyone who isn’t old, rich, white, straight, and cis-gender.
To to sum up: Give claims of assault from women and minorities the agency they deserve, for much more often than not, we’re telling the truth. If it’s a very rare falsehood, just let the facts and legal process fall where it may. But above all, give women and minorities deserved respect. We are not sexual playthings, nor are we the deviant freaks that the holier-than-thou community thinks we are. We are more than a color or a gender or a sexual identity. And we are not someone you can push around and dismiss, nor will we let you get away with it.
Simply put, we are human beings.