The Frenzied Search for Racism

The Jussie Smollett case, in which a young black, gay actor has apparently concocted a tale of being attacked by two white men wearing MAGA hats and shouting anti-gay slurs, is just the latest example of how desperately media elites want to confirm their favored narrative about America: that the country is endemically and lethally racist, sexist, and homophobic, and that the election of Donald Trump both proves and reinforces such bigotry.

The truth: as instances of actual racism get harder and harder to find, the search to find such bigotry becomes increasingly frenzied and unmoored from reality.

Smollett made a not-irrational wager that a patently preposterous narrative about an anti-black, anti-gay hate crime at 2 a.m. in subzero Chicago would be embraced by virtually the entirety of the mainstream media, leading Democratic politicians, Hollywood, and academia, with no one in these cohorts bothering to fact-check his narrative or entertain even armchair skepticism toward it. He also presumed, again with good reason, that to claim victim status would catapult him to the highest echelons of public admiration and accomplishment. And he was right. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker called it a “modern-day lynching.” Joe Biden warned that “we must no longer give this hate safe harbor,” his implication being that we need to stop winking at such racist attacks. If Beale Street Could Talk’s Barry Jenkins lamented, “This what all that hateful mongering has wrought. Are you PROUD???”  Good Morning America interviewed Smollett without asking a single critical question about his story.

The examples are as numerous as the retractions will be minimal.

Even the Chicago Police Department was reluctant to express any skepticism toward the Smollett narrative until it had overwhelming evidence of the hoax, since to question the ubiquity of racism today is to invite accusations of racism. Yet the CPD, along with their law enforcement brethren, are surely aware of what the data say regarding hate crimes. In 2017, the FBI reported an additional 1,000 hate crimes from 2016, for a total of 7,000. But an additional 1,000 police agencies participated in hate-crime reporting in 2017, as Reason’s Robby Soave has pointed out, so it’s not clear that that increase is real or simply a result of more reporting. Even if real, 7,000 “hate crimes” in a country this large is an infinitesimal number. And the definition of a hate crime is highly political: very little black-on-white street crime gets classified as such, though hatred for whites undoubtedly drives a considerable fraction of this activity. (Between 2012 and 2015, blacks committed more than 85 percent of interracial violent victimizations between blacks and whites.)
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