Jussie Smollett’s outburst during his sentencing hearing yesterday was a fitting finale to a bizarre national melodrama. The actor was asked if he had any questions after receiving a jail sentence of five months. He responded by emphatically declaring that he is not suicidal, reiterating his claims of innocence, and raising his fist in the air as a final act of defiance as he was escorted out of the courtroom.
The entire scene was a reminder of the bad acting and plot twists that the American public has endured over the past three years. The "Empire" actor started this show as a sympathetic victim of a vicious hate crime that was condemned by everyone from Al Sharpton to Donlad Trump. He ended it as a poster boy for privilege and ethnic Munchausen syndrome – the condition that incentivizes narcissists to fake racial attacks and embellish claims of racial trauma to draw attention to themselves.
The Smollett saga also represents something much more important – the moral decay and cultural irrelevance of the black leadership class composed of liberal elected officials, activists, academics, journalists, cultural critics, athletes, and entertainers. On the surface, members of this “Afristocracy” look like the “Talented Tenth” described by W.E.B. DuBois, but the major difference is that this group of elites have self-preservation, not social progress, as their primary motivating factor.
Jussie Smollett was the perfect poster boy for their failure because so much of the Afristocracy’s work is performance art, soaked in spectacle and symbolism but devoid of real substance. Derrick Johnson and Jesse Jackson both wrote letters to the judge asking for leniency for Smollett. Johnson is the CEO of the NAACP. His sense of history and connection to reality are so warped that he called the Kyle Rittenhosue verdict a worse injustice than the Emmett Till trial. Jackson is an aging civil rights activist in declining health.
The fact that both men are in Chicago talking about justice for one of their own instead of one of the hundreds of shooting and homicide victims in that city is completely on-brand. The Afristocracy feeds on the belief that America in 2022 is no different than America in 1922, which is why it prioritizes fake hate crimes over real street crimes. Its favorite cases are the ones that involve celebrities because those allow them to say things like, “Even a black man making millions of dollars can be victimized by racism and white supremacy.” This is why they jumped at an opportunity to highlight Smollet’s allegations before additional facts emerged.
Johnson and Jackson see themselves as heirs to Dr. King’s legacy, but they are key contributors to our current “civil wrongs” era.
Their work is completely different from Dr. King’s in part because the country is no longer the same. King’s movement was powered by a biblical desire to achieve moral reformation through the law. The Afristocracy may speak Christianese, but it is powered by a secular desire to achieve utopia through Marxist redistribution.
King’s generation respected its ancestors and tried to honor them by advancing the cause of equal citizenship. Members of the modern Afristocracy think nothing of comparing every law they don’t like to Jim Crow and invoking images of racial violence to promote their economic and political interests.
The civil wrongs era is also characterized by black elites who consistently put their sympathies in the wrong place. There are thousands of black people who are shot and killed in this country each year. Half of all homicide victims in this country are black despite African-Americans only being 13% of the population. Many of these victims are schoolchildren, yet the people who chant “black lives matter” and pay attention to every racial inequity seem unwilling or unable to say any of their names.
One exception is the case of Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old black girl who was shot and killed in a Walmart parking lot in Houston. The initial suspect description – white male in his 40s – prompted Bernice King, an actual King heir, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, and Gabrielle Union to bring national attention to a case they claimed was race-related.
A few days later the police charged two black suspects with capital murder. Bernice King never updated her Twitter followers on the case, and the man Shaun King accused of being the shooter killed himself seven months later.
This is the Afristocracy in action. Its members are color-conscious casting directors – always on the lookout for black victims and white perpetrators. They will step over the bloody bodies of countless black working-class people all across the country to champion the cause of black elites like Smollett, Colin Kapernick, and Bubba Wallace.
Even their advocacy on behalf of everyday citizens is cynically motivated by race. This is why Amy Cooper’s behavior toward a black birdwatcher in Central Park became a national story in 2020, complete with op-eds in Essence Magazine and the Daily Beast comparing the incident to the murder of Emmett Till. Davell Gardner Jr., the black toddler shot and killed in his stroller a few months later in Brooklyn, generated no such national attention. The defund-the-police sympathizers who fill the ranks of the Afristocracy had even less interest in the detectives who worked tirelessly to track down the perpetrators or the fact that the alleged shooter was already in custody in connection to a separate murder case.
The impact of America’s ugly racial history on social outcomes today requires cultural physicians who can observe symptoms, provide a diagnosis, recommend a course of treatment, and deliver a prognosis. A functioning black leadership class would be able to look at the fact that homicide is the leading cause of death for black males between 15 and 24 and talk about the social, political, economic, and individual factors embedded in both the sickness and treatment.
What we have instead are spin doctors whose primary specialties are image management and witch doctors whose response to every ailment is the same: “end white supremacy.” The Afristocracy believes using the phrase “black-on-black crime” is a bigger problem than the actual criminal acts it describes and that white people are responsible for getting black people not to kill one another.
The reason Jesse Jackson’s mercy letter noted that Jussie Smollet is a black, gay man with Jewish heritage is because the left can only think in terms of identity groups. Being connected to multiple “marginalized” groups makes you more oppressed and, paradoxically, more privileged in America today.
Jussie Smollett tried to use that privilege to evade justice. His attempts to turn himself into the “gay Tupac,” an artist and political prisoner victimized by a racist justice sytem, failed. Black America would be well served if the black elites who enabled him would suffer a similar fate.