LGBTQ advocates in South Florida said they do not believe the alleged hate-crime hoax by Empire actor Jussie Smollett will harm their community, saying people are intelligent enough to see this as a unique case.
Information surrounding the January incident continues to unfold.
On Wednesday, the 36-year-old was charged with a felony for allegedly filing a false police report. Smollett told police the attackers shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him while walking to his apartment in Chicago at around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. He also said he was assaulted and a bleach-like substance thrown on him.
But now, police say he staged the whole event, and on Friday, producers for the show announced his character would be written out.
Mark Ketcham, the executive director of SunServe, a Broward County based mental health service for LGBTQ members, said the situation is sad for the community, adding he is confused as to why someone would fabricate such a story.
Herb Sosa is the executive director of the Unity Coalition, which works to advance equality for Hispanics within the South Florida LGBTQ community. He said he isn’t worried about any backlash from the issue despite Smollett’s fame.
“He certainly has the public eye … that’s unfortunate that he chose to use it in this way. Does that overshadow anyone else’s genuine hate crimes? Absolutely not,” said Sosa.
Still, Sosa said some within the community may have questions or concerns, and his group is ready to help.
Hate crimes can occur anywhere and affect anyone, he said.
“The root of hate crimes is when we allow ourselves to dehumanize others,” he said. “Or not put a face to something we don’t understand or agree with.”