Crimes against LGBTQ community deserve thorough investigation

The vast majority of those cases receive only a glimmer of the attention Jussie Smollett has received.

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Flanked by family members, supporters, attorneys and bodyguards, former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Thursday morning.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

I don’t know if Jussie Smollett is guilty. Smollett is on trial in a Cook County criminal court, accused of making false reports to police that he was a victim of a hate crime. The jury may begin deliberating next week.

If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison.

In January 2019, Smollett told Chicago police that he was attacked on the city’s Near North Side by two people. They battered him, yelled racial and homophobic slurs and wrapped a rope around his neck, he claimed.

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Smollett maintains his attackers yelled “this is MAGA country,” in reference to “Make America Great Again,” then-President Donald J. Trump’s ugly mantra. Smollett, then a star in the Fox TV show “Empire,” is Black and gay.

The police launched an intense investigation of the alleged hate crime, but later decided that the evidence suggested that Smollett made up his story.

Forget the jury — some have already pronounced Smollett guilty in the sensational saga.

“Jussie Smollett definitely faked a hate crime,” Fox News channel Host Tucker Carlson pronounced last week in his televised commentary. “Looking back, in retrospect, it was maybe the most obvious hoax ever perpetrated.”

The Smollett saga will inevitably fade, but racism and bigotry will remain, as real and pernicious as ever. Just look at the MAGA movement. It’s a philosophy that’s saturated with hostility to people of color, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community.

It plays out in Chicago, one of the nation’s most segregated cities. Yet the vast majority of those cases receive only a glimmer of the attention Smollett has received.

There have been 78 hate crimes reported to the Chicago Police Department so far this year, compared with 79 in 2020, Chicago Police Department data shows. Most were categorized as either anti-gay or anti-Black.

Nationally, at least 49 transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means this year, reports the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). That is the highest total since HRC began tracking the trend in 2013.

“In previous years, the majority of these people were Black and Latinx transgender women,” according to HRC.

At least five Black transgender women have been murdered in the Chicago area in the last year, Block Club Chicago reports.

Brianna Hamilton and her younger sister, Janiece Lewis, grew up in Woodlawn on the city’s South Side.

They were inseparable, Lewis told Block Club. Lewis admired her sister’s bravery and outgoing personality.

“Wherever she went, if I wanted to go, she’d take me with her,” Lewis was quoted as saying about her older sister. “She was my first best friend.”

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Hamilton, 26, was Black and transgender. On Sept. 17 she was shot to death in the 7800 block of South Bishop Avenue, Block Club reported. Officers responding to a call of a person shot found her lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to her head, police said.

Her death was ruled a homicide and is being investigated. Her family and friends believe she was killed because she was transgender.

“I don’t know how we can stop this from happening again,” Lewis said. “But I do know I want to help by bringing awareness to it, because Brianna’s life mattered. All their lives mattered.”

That matters, no matter what happens to Jussie Smollett.

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