Jussie Smollett was found guilty Saturday of lying to the police, but it shouldn’t take away from a fact many of us know: reporting crime is not always about justice.
In fact, at some point in our lives, we all have to wonder why we did what we did that we were convicted of lying about.
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When I was in high school, my friend Chris and I thought we would be big winners. As much as we wanted to be, we ended up spending a semester in jail.
Chris got into fighting in the halls and ended up accidentally wrestling a boy from another school. After the tussle, he sat in his car, thinking he needed to run to his house to help his friends. We didn’t know anything about this fight — this was just a blood feud between Chris and some other kids. But when we later called him and asked him why he wanted to be our wingman, it turned out Chris had never left his friend’s house since kindergarten.
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I ended up sitting in the hallway for three months after I joined Chris’ court-ordered community service. A few days after I was released, I went to my first prom. And I didn’t get the girl.
When I walked into that restaurant, I had my parents, brothers and friends tell the waitress, “This is Jussie Smollett!” The waitress told me I should have called her Toni, because she was actually the same age as me.
Unfortunately, Toni thinks you’re way too small to be there.
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When I grew up, my parents always showed me the “Smollett Factor.” It was a realization that many of us face. What we know right now about the Smollett case—that the actor lied about being the victim of a hate crime — is not necessarily true.
How sad is that? How great is that?
Because if you didn’t grow up in a house filled with “smollett factors,” don’t question why you lied to the police, or refused to bring them your cell phone, or put them on the phone so they could take the call, or took the patrol car without asking them why you were there. None of those things should be OK.
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The Smollett case also shows how the state and federal laws against lying could be applied more liberally. When it comes to the federal rules, more scrutiny is needed to protect those in need of help and fair treatment.
As I wrote earlier, our society has something to learn from the Smollett story.
But as anyone involved in law enforcement or talking to the media, it’s more than just a story about one man lying about being attacked. In the coming days, as people attempt to understand how we continue to nurture our society, the truth of that is the single thing everyone who is part of this story should understand.
It’s not all about justice and it’s not all about a conviction. It’s about our hearts. It’s about doing the right thing because it feels right, and that is hard. But we cannot allow people to kill us on the basis of who we are.
Because that never made anyone who fought against slavery any safer.
We can all agree.
Ed Butowsky is a host of a daily podcast called, “10 Things.” He is host of SiriusXM’s SXM College Station and founder of the Butowsky Business Media Network, a media partner of the Smollett trial.