“Is that Not Racist?” Jussie Smollett, Savannah, and Racism in Black America

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I write this with a heavy apprehension and care because of how sensitive this subject is. I write this not only out of concern for a culture I appreciate and respect but to point out a hypocrisy which has become prevalent and harmful. A hypocrisy which saddens me because these are the same people who fought against racism and made minorities, like myself, have Civil Rights in the United States. And it frightens me greatly to write about this subject because of the fear of being labeled a bigot. But I must because of my personal experience with racism.

The recent case of the black actor Jussie Smollett, who was indicted by a Grand Jury for faking a hate crime in Chicago, and the mixed reactions from Black Americans was alarming. Not only was it the fact that a guilty man took advantage of a real problem with race and hate crimes for his only personal gain, but it was the blind support from members of the Black Community that had me shocked. The actor Anthony Anderson supported Smollett’s NACCP nomination by stating, “I hope he wins. I’m happy for him that the system worked for him in his favor because the system isn’t always fair, especially for people of color.”

This blind support for a man who faked a hate crime for higher pay is terrifying because this is not what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached and died for. He wanted EVERY American to be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. But, isn’t it racist to not hold an individual accountable for his actions, especially heinous crimes, just because of the color of their skin? To give blanket protection of sympathy and support just because the person is of the same color as you and not because of their actions. Is that not racist?

Watching in the news as this miscarriage of justice reminded me of my tragic encounter with racism and the notion that a subsect of Black Americans is racist. And to even mention this in public is to risk being called a bigot. But it doesn’t make it less true, which I tragically found out.

 

Savannah and the Culture of Black Racism

I was a victim of racism, and it wasn’t from white people. It’s always the white character in shows, movies, and plays who portrays the atypical bigot. I have encountered racism from whites before, but I quickly dismissed them as assholes because they only used racial slurs and nothing more. But the racism which deeply affected my life was sadly from Black Americans. The racism I had to face cost me a career and plagued my life with depression and suicidal thoughts. I’ve spent years keeping my thoughts about race to myself because I was afraid to be called a racist.

I was a police officer in Savannah, Ga when I pulled over a black man for not wearing a seatbelt. He jumped out of the car as soon as he parked and started screaming at me. I unholstered my service pistol and had it at the low-ready position (I brought the gun to my chest but with the barrel aimed down) and gave multiple orders for him to get back in the car so I can have him contained. I did this because traffic stops are one of the most dangerous situations a police officer can be in due to not knowing if the person could be a violent offender and have weapons in the car. His actions of jumping out of the car and screaming at me were not conducive to a simple traffic stop. When he finally sat back down in the car, he yelled at me and said he was the “City Managers’ Husband.” What should have been a typical traffic stop for a seat-belt violation became a yearlong nightmare and my exposure to police corruption.

I was humiliated on my birthday by being placed on suspension and having to hand in my badge. Internal Affairs accused me of being mentally unstable for unholstering my gun and was sent to get mentally evaluated, which I was immediately cleared. But the heartbreaking moment was when I was brought in for a Use of Force Board (generally used for officer-involved shootings) and was told by the Training Supervisor, in front of 6 other police officers, that this wouldn’t have happened to me if the man I pulled over wasn’t black. I was later informed that the City Manager was giving orders to I.A. to have me unfairly treated as a lesson.

During this grueling and humiliating time, the police department was investigated by the F.B.I. and other agencies for corruption. The Police Chief was arrested for corruption and gambling charges. Cops were fired for protecting gang members and the Internal Affairs department (the same ones who put me on suspension) were disbanded because they were protecting corrupt police officers. The Lieutenant from I.A. (which I had evidence of him fabricating elements of my case) later committed suicide due to an investigation against him by the A.T.F. (Follow the Link to Read More about the Corruption in Savannah)

This culture of corruption had a major component in common; a majority of the members were part of a cohort of black citizens who believed that their victimhood justified their actions. No matter how illegal or immoral those actions might be. Not all black people in Savannah or on the department were like this. A good portion was decent, hardworking and wanted to earn their way through life; like the rest of us. But there were government leaders, judges and police officers who used race for advancement and to justify their malicious actions. In this case, these corrupt citizens abused power to the point of becoming the racist their grandparents fought against.

As for what happened to me, I became a whistleblower and mass-emailed the entire department and city my resignation letter which addressed the corruption within the department and the city. However, one of the things I regret about the letter was that I didn’t address the racism. I was afraid to. Even though I was committing career suicide by becoming a whistleblower, I felt my letter wouldn’t have been impactful if I mentioned the racism enacted by black citizens. I was afraid to be labeled a racist even though what had happened to me and the corruption stemmed from racism.

The cost of my situation was years of heartache and depression. I had a moment in my life where I wanted to commit suicide because of the unbearable grief of leaving a career I loved and the fear that the rest of my life wouldn’t amount to anything. I had to live with the disillusionment and distrust of law enforcement and government institutions because of the corruption I encountered. That institutions will heavily punish most for indiscretions but will protect the guilty because of who they know and how they are connected. Connected via family, business or skin color. But I survived and became better from it. I had to.

I was told by friends that still work for Savannah that there were some good changes, but the racism still exists. I didn’t believe that until I read recently in the news that a church closed off a mayoral debate to the press, except to black reporters.

 

The Difficulty of All Americans

I write this difficult article because it’s heartbreaking to have been a victim of racism and to have it come from Black Americans because they were the ones who fought against it. Their grandparents were the ones who paid the price with dignity and compassion. But now I fear that a cohort of Black Americans is taking control over the national conversation and abusing it. Resulting in a warped hypocrisy of racism and a new breed of hate.

No, it’s not all Black Americans that are like this but a subsect that has the loudest voices. Do I believe what happened in Savannah only applies to Black Americans? No. My situation could have happened with any demographic who assumes power over a multicultural population. This type of corruption could have happened if you placed all Whites in power, Latinos, Asians, Catholics, Jews or Gays. It’s when you have selected members of these groups assume power and proclaims superiority over others because of past grievances or being perpetual victims; this is where corruption is born.

What scares me also is the violence which has grown from this type of racism. The best example was in 2014 with the Michael Brown case. Riots, arrest, and violence spawned over Michael Brown’s shooting. He is not a hero or a savior who deserved this attention, but a man who committed robbery and resisted arrest. He wasn’t a victim. He wasn’t James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner a.k.a. The Freedom Summer Murders of 1964; which was a real conspiracy involving the police. They were noble heroes, Michael Brown was a crook. But the color of Michael Brown’s skin was the only qualification necessary for him the be lauded a hero and not the violent actions he took which led to him to getting shot.

A few months after this, Issmaaiyl Brinsley drove from Baltimore after killing his girlfriend and assassinated NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos (An Asian and Hispanic American, respectively). He had written on his social media about wanting to kill the police and being angered over the killing of Michael Brown. Michael Brown received three White House officials for his funeral while Officers Liu and Ramos received no such condolences, even though they were victims of a Hate Crime.

There is also a continual cry for more black representation in politics and Hollywood, but there is barely any representation of Latino Americans, Asian Americans or Muslim Americans. We had a black president, black academy award winners, and black business moguls. But Black Americans aren’t the only ones who have to deal with racism. Hispanics are being discriminated by law enforcement for looking like illegal immigrants. Asian Americans are being told by prestigious universities that they have to have higher entry scores because there are too many who pass the entrance exams. Puerto Ricans are treated like second class citizens and not receiving the proper Federal assistance after a disaster, and Native Americans are having their land pillaged by oil companies. Also, white Americans are being told that they haven’t earned their way in life because of “white privilege.” We all have it hard. We all have to deal with racism in our own ways.

 

How Do We Want to this to End?

I write this not to belittle real racism or hate crimes to black people. Unfortunately, there is still racism towards Black Americans, such as the Unite the Right Valley/Charlottesville Car Attack in 2017 and the Louisiana Church Fires in 2019. But but we live in a time where we are striving to undo injustice and we have made great strives with civil rights. Such as in my hometown of Jacksonville, FL where Clifford Williams and Nathan Myers were exonerated after 43 years of prison for a crime that they never committed due to incompetence and corruption with the criminal justice system in 1976.

How do we move forward as a country, as a union of various cultures and peoples? Only through love. We must love our enemies, no matter how much wrong they do. How much contempt and disgust you have for who they have chosen to be. We must mine deep pass their acts and excavate the humanity that is left and bring it into the light. But it can only be done through compassion, accountability and forgiveness. And if you can’t save the person you hate. If you fail in bringing out their humanity, because some people are too far gone, you must do it nevertheless. Because their children are watching, your children are watching, and one day they will understand that love was the only way. Then, you will save them.

I pity Jussie Smollett, Prosecutor Kim Foxx and the people that blindly engage in this form of racism. I pity the racist who hurt me because they aren’t the dream that MLK dreamt off, but a nightmarish reflection. They are a reminder of why we must judge a person solely from their character and not the color of their skin.