Tag Archives: violence

Tulsa and June 19th

Page 1 of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863.

“And so when this terrible thing happened, it really destroyed my faith in humanity.  And it took a good long while for me to get over it.”

– Olivia Hooker, survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots

It’s a typical story: White woman claims Black man assaulted her; mob of White men become enraged and launch a hunt for said perpetrator; any Negro male is automatically presumed guilty; exact details supposed incident are unknown.  This was the scenario in May of 1921, when a young White female, Sarah Page, in Tulsa allegedly screamed after a young Black man, Dick Rowland, entered the elevator she operated.  Even today the circumstances of the exchange between Page and Rowland remain unclear.  But, in 1921, scores of hate-filled White men didn’t need to know such minutia.  The White woman’s words were the only details they needed.

And thus, commenced what is now known to be the worst race-based riot in U.S. history.  Police found Rowland and charged him sexual assault.  The sheriff had refused to hand Rowland over to bands of outraged Whites.  The throngs of self-proclaimed vigilantes stormed through Tulsa’s Black-dominated Greenwood neighborhood to exact further revenge.  Greenwood featured a district known as “Black Wall Street;” where businesses owned and operated by African-American residents had become an incredibly independent and thriving economy within a city of some 100,000.

When the initial chaos was over, upwards of 300 Greenwood-area residents were dead and thousands left homeless.  Some Black veterans of World War I (then called the “Great War”) had taken up arms in defense of their community, which surely incentivized the angry White men to continue their violent retribution.

The same madness would occur in Rosewood, Florida two years later.  A White woman reported that a Black man had entered her home and attacked her.  The woman’s husband gathered a group of about 500 Ku Klux Klan members and began a hunt through the area for any Black man they could find.  They learned that a Black member of a prison chain gang had escaped and believed Black residents of Rosewood were helping him hide.  The mobs then systematically tore through town, killing whoever they could (mostly Black men) and driving out most of the survivors.  The entire community of Rosewood was decimated.  The story of what happened remained largely unknown until at least the 1980s.

The story of Tulsa still remains largely unknown.  I’d heard of the horror some 30 years ago and wondered why such a calamity would be so obscure.  I now know why.  Like much of Native American history, true aspects of the African-American experience are often overwhelmed by the cult of American greatness; the “Manifest Destiny” myths stained heavily with Eurocentric viewpoints.  The Tulsa Massacre has received greater attention in recent months because of the tragic deaths of several African-Americans.  Its significance has grown even more within the past couple of weeks, as Donald Trump was set to stage a campaign rally in Tulsa today.  But that’s been postponed to tomorrow.

COVID-19 concerns aside, the event would have been held on one of the most historic dates in American history.  On June 19, 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the state of Texas – more than two years after then-President Abraham Lincoln had signed it.  The decree established “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

Known as Juneteenth, the event is now celebrated as a turning point in the U.S. Civil War; bringing an end to one of the bloodiest conflicts on American soil.  The Emancipation Proclamation forcibly freed millions of people from the carnage of slavery; granting them the dignity of their humanity; something that had been stolen from their ancestors ensnared in the traps of slave traders on the beaches of West Africa.

That Donald Trump – one of the most cognitively-challenged and covertly racist presidents the U.S. has ever had – would hold a reelection rally on this date and 99 years after one of the single worst racial holocausts in modern American history speaks to an incredible level of ignorance among the historical elite and certainly of its arrogance.  Knowing Trump, this shouldn’t be surprising.  But the partiality of U.S. history also shouldn’t be surprising.

Many factors of our history – some dating back thousands of years – have been absent from the historical account.  For decades, myths persisted that Native Americans willingly bowed down to Christianity and that Blacks lived happily within an enslaved existence.  Even now, for example, many Americans believe most Hispanics are Latin American immigrants; when, in fact, the history of Hispanics in the U.S. goes back further than that of other Europeans and is tied inexorably with Native American history.  In other words, it IS American history.

Anger over Trump’s June 19 convocation forced organizers to reschedule it for the 20th.  But that won’t solve the dilemma of deliberate ignorance – just like civil rights legislation didn’t make all racial transgressions moot.  The 1965 Voting Rights Act eliminated many of the barriers to voting obstruction.  But, since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, we’ve seen Republican-dominated state legislatures try to roll back some of those protections under the guise of preventing voter fraud.

A photographic overview of Tulsa’s Greenwood area after the 1921 race riot and massacre. (Greenwood Cultural Center)

Much of the anger among Whites in 1921 was that Tulsa’s Greenwood section was prosperous and independent.  The same happened with the Tigua community 18 years ago, when the state of Texas shut down their casino under the ruse of combating illegal gambling.  The Tiguas had become wealthy and independent with proceeds from the casino; thus, lifting most out of poverty and off of welfare.  But they hadn’t gotten permission from the conservative, predominantly White state legislature; an affront of unimaginable proportions the latter.  Therefore, then-Governor Rick Perry and then-State Attorney General John Cornyn forced the casino to close.  Many of the Tigua have now slipped back into poverty and back onto state assistance. Even as of last year, Texas is still trying to stop the Tiguas from becoming self-sufficient.

Again, anyone with a clear mind shouldn’t be surprised.  Economic independence and wealth translates into political power.  The voices and experiences of those communities are no longer silenced.  That, in turn, upsets the self-appointed power elite – and the oppression begins.  It used to come at the end of firearms and sticks.  Now it comes with legislation.

It’s too easy to dismiss the ignorance of people like Donald Trump.  But it’s also dangerous.  And it does a disservice to the American conscious.

We can never truly make amends for incidents like Tulsa.  We can, however, honor such brutal transgressions by remembering them; remembering exactly what happened and not deleting any feature of those accounts because some are uncomfortable with it.  Again, that’s a disservice to the American conscious.

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Tweet of the Week – June 5, 2020

Mark McCoy

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Best Quote of the Week – June 5, 2020

“Please, if you don’t have something constructive to say, keep your mouth shut.”

Art Acevedo, Houston police chief, in response to Donald Trump’s advice to state governors to “dominate” people protesting the recent shooting death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

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Tweet of the Week – May 29, 2020

Jonny Bones

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Photo of the Week – March 20, 2020

At a press conference on March 19 about the spreading COVID-19 flu, as Faux-President Donald Trump read from notes on the podium, a Washington Post photographer managed to take a photo of a page on which the term “corona” had been crossed out and replaced with “Chinese”.  Trump had already used the word “Chinese” to describe the virus; later saying, “It’s not racist at all. It comes from China, that’s why.”

Yes, the virus originated in China, but sadly, the pandemic also has spawned hate crimes against Asian-Americans.  It’s not uncommon for certain groups to fall victim to violence perpetrated by others in response to particular crises.  At the start of the AIDS pandemic in the early 1980s, gay men and even some lesbian women found themselves targeted for violence; usually by people who would have used any excuse to attack anyway.  Periodically, over the past several years, many Hispanics – including The Chief – have fallen victim to violence perpetrated by others over illegal immigration.

The current situation for people of Asian extraction is that we have a billionaire Republican, failed business tycoon, former reality TV star masquerading as the American president who has already proven he’s not above using racist tropes to communicate his point.

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Equalizing

Recently, Virginia became the 38th of the United States to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.  It’s been a long-fought battle for proponents of dismantling all barriers to women achieving full and complete equality with males.  Earlier this month supporters became ecstatic when both chambers of the Virginia state house approved the amendment.

“We must begin to see a world without discrimination of any kind,” declared Virginia State Senator Mamie Locke.  “Equality based on sex is not just good for women, it is good for society.”

Ratification of the ERA reached a critical flashpoint in the 1970s, as more women entered the workforce and began seeking higher levels of education than at any time in U.S. history.  When Congress submitted the ERA to the states for ratification in 1972, it gave it a March 1979 deadline for 38 states to ratify it.  They didn’t make it.  In 1979, however, the U.S. Congress gave the ERA three more years to get ratified.  Again, it didn’t succeed.  By then, most judicial and legislative experts declared the amendment dead.  Even the U.S. Supreme Court, the only court to review it, acknowledged that.

Proponents remained undeterred.  The slew of legal machinations born of this ongoing effort is astounding, which is understandable.  Our education system often discusses our founding fathers, but – outside of Betsy Ross – says little about our founding mothers.  Yes, men devised and built much of the infrastructure and technology that has helped the United States become a wealthy, powerful nation.  The same is true for most other developed countries.  But women have been at the forefront of change and progress as well.  To deny their impact is essentially telling only half of the story.

Still, ERA critics state the ratification process has been unnecessarily complicated and even unconstitutional.  Others point to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which includes the term “equal protection of the laws,” and often refers to citizenship matters.  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (undoubtedly the most progressive of all the Court’s judges) opined that any attempt to ratify the ERA would mean starting over again.

But, as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for; you might just get it.  Full gender equality doesn’t just mean equal pay for equal work – which has been the crux of the argument.  It could also mean certain employment standards would have to be adjusted or eliminated.  For example, one could argue that physical fitness requirements for firefighters could be declared illegal based strictly on gender.  Some women may be able to meet those particular goals, while a number of men couldn’t.

A new argument that has arisen is that the ERA will prevent pro-life advocates and groups from protesting abortion, which is generally aimed at women.  It’s a dubious claim at best.  Perhaps some birth control methods could come under greater scrutiny.  Since birth control pills and IUD’s are consumed primarily by women, does that mean they will have to be deregulated and sold over-the-counter like condoms?  Or will condoms become available only by prescription?  That’s a disaster waiting to happen!

I personally want to see how ERA advocates react to women being compelled to abide by Selective Service.  Currently, all able-bodied, able-minded males in the U.S. are required to register for Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday.  There’s no penalty for late registration, but there are a slew for non-registration.  Men who don’t register usually can’t enter college or get financial aid.  In some places, they can’t even graduate from high school, or could have their diploma rescinded.  They can’t obtain federal job training, or get jobs within the federal government.  All men who immigrate to the U.S. before their 26th birthday must register in order to garner full citizenship.  Failure to register is a felonious offense and punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Selective Service is the most blatant and deliberate form of gender discrimination.  The education penalties alone are violations of Title IX, an act passed by Congress in 1972 and directed towards ending gender imbalances in the education system (mainly college).  Contemporary feminists had argued that all-male schools, for example, are unconstitutional if they receive federal funding.  But, as I see it, Title IX means nothing, since Selective Service permits discrimination against males.

The Selective Service system refers, of course, to a military draft, which has not been in place in the U.S. since 1973.  While it basically means all young men must be available for compulsory military service, it actually means that group is expendable.  When the concept of women serving in combat positions in military conflicts arose, many people expressed horror at the thought of women coming home critically disabled or in body bags – as if we’ve made our peace with men returning in the same conditions.  Selective Service, therefore, makes young males cannon fodder.  Even some disabled men have to register for the draft; that is, if they can leave their dwelling under their own power.  If disabled men have to register, why shouldn’t able-bodied women be required to do the same?

How will the ERA affect family leave policies in the American workplace?  Most health insurance policies require coverage for pregnancy, and most companies allow for X amount of time off to care for a newborn.  But very few companies maintain paternity leave, and I don’t believe any insurance policies plans consider such time a medical issue.  Will pregnancy no longer be considered a unique medical condition, but rather, something chronic like diabetes?

Will the Violence Against Women Act have to be restructured to include men, or will it be eliminated altogether?  First enacted in 1994, the VAWA seeks to improve criminal justice and community responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.  In effect, it’s also a highly sexist piece of legislation because it assumes either that only adult females are the victims of violence or that adult females are the only victims of violence who matter.  The law has been amended in recent years to include lesbian and transgender women – as if men, again, aren’t worth the trouble or should just be left to fend for themselves with laws and processes that don’t really help.

Currently in the U.S. vehicle insurance rates are slanted against males.  Most companies will lower insurance rates for females when they reach the age of 21, but only for males when they reach 25.  Men can earn lower insurance rates if they marry or have children.  Years ago women often couldn’t enter into a contractual agreement without a man as cosigner.  That’s now illegal, but will the ERA render the insurance rates’ gender disparities invalid?

Aside from forcing women into the military alongside men, one bloodcurdling fear among social conservatives is that the ERA will compel society to establish unisex public lavatories.  Early opponents seemed to focus on this in particular.  If that happens, will locker rooms fall to gender equality next?  Will doctors be forbidden from letting prospective parents know the gender of their baby after a sonogram?

As a writer, I wonder what the ERA might do to language.  It’s more common now to use the term humanity instead of mankind.  Will gender-specific pronouns fall out of favor or – worst – be outlawed?

How will the transgendered be impacted by the ERA?  Growing up there were only two genders: female and male.  Now we have such classifications as non-binary and cisgender.  Excuse me?

I know some of these issues seem almost comical, but we really have to think about what gender equality means.  I fully believe women are just as capable as men, when it comes to professional matters, such as business and law enforcement.  But men and women each possess qualities that are generally unique to our respective gender.  Neither set of attributes is superior to the other; they’re meant to work in concert with one another.  I’ve always said that, if gender and racial oppression hadn’t been in place for so long, we might have made it to the moon 200 or more years ago.  Telephones, motor vehicles and television could be ancient equipment by now.

But alas, our world hadn’t become that progressive until recently.  Still, aside from restroom signs and military deployments, gender is not always fluid and malleable.

What does gender equality mean to you?

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Best Quote of the Week – November 22, 2019

“I confess that when I hear some speeches by someone responsible for public order or a government, I am reminded of Hitler’s speeches in 1934 and 1936.  They are typical actions of Nazism which with its persecutions of Jews, gypsies, people of homosexual orientation, represent a negative model ‘par excellence’ of a throwaway culture and a culture of hate.  That’s what they did then and today these things are resurfacing.

Pope Francis, expressing concern about modern language he’s heard targeting Jews and the LGBTQ community.

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Little Laughter

The new “Joker” movie is a rehash of an old conundrum: middle-aged man tries to remain relevant in a society that views him with mocking contempt, while he seeks true love and cares for his elderly disabled mother.  Said middle-aged man then experiences a cerebral infarction that plunges him into a psychotic pit of hopeless violence.

How the hell did the screenplay writer get hold of one of my journals?!

“Joker” reminds me of a 1950 Mexican film entitled “Los Olvidados” (The Forgotten Ones), directed by Luis Buñuel.  Also known as “The Young and the Damned”, it focuses on a small cadre of teens trying to survive the brutalities of urban life in a México City slum.

By the 1950s, many films began to acquire a more realistic approach to the world’s problems.  While a post-World War II America seemed to relegate itself to colorful musicals and grand westerns with clearly-drawn heroic and villainous figures, filmmakers in other countries expressed a more cynical, jaded view.

In “Los Olvidados”, Buñuel depicts poverty exactly as it is: cold, violent and oppressive.  It’s a birth place for anger and hostility; not ingenuity where people go from victim to survivor through sheer will power and determination.  American movies of the time often showed Mexicans and Negroes as happy and laughing, despite their economic hardships and substandard living conditions.  In “Los Olvidados”, poverty doesn’t hover in the background like trees in a park.  It’s tangible and painful; it’s a source of cruelty and hate – not an inspiration to forge ahead through rocky obstacles and build a better life.

“Joker” is a modification of that, as it highlights the humiliation individuals often experience in their ongoing quest for acceptance.  It also points to the hostile and sometimes violent reaction people have when they don’t gain that acceptance or respect.  It’s why, for example, American society exploded into rage and bloodshed in the mid-1960s; more directly, why many non-Whites exploded.  They’d finally lost their patience.  They’d done everything possible to be part of the American mainstream, and it still wasn’t good enough.  They were still being treated as second-class citizens; intimidated at the voting booth; forced to sit in the back of mass transit vehicles; sequestered into a proverbial closet.  Beat an animal long enough and it’ll eventually bite back.

For me, patience was always a given.  I had a long fuse.  It took a lot to aggravate me to the point of hysteria.  That may seem like a good thing, a positive attribute – and it is.  But like paralyzing fear, it has its drawbacks – namely that I let people take advantage of me.  Then, in the quiet of my home, I’d complain about it – to no one.  When I would finally bite back, I would unleash a barrage of bloody emotions.  And people would have the audacity to be shocked and get upset.  In other words, I’d scare the shit out of them.  But the primary drawback?  It made me look mentally and emotionally unstable.

In “Joker”, Joaquin Phoenix tries to put on a happy face, while mired in emotional pain and confusion.

I can recall a number of examples where I let myself get pushed too far, but here’s one.  July 2000 and I worked as an executive administrative assistant for a large bank in Dallas.  I supported two bank officers, plus the manager to our little group.  That summer our particular division decided it wanted every individual officer to submit letters to every client in their portfolios; personally-signed letters – not electronically stamped.  The letters for each of my two officers arrived later than for those of the others.  They’d been sent to the wrong floor.  One of my officers seemed to get upset that I didn’t get all 800+ of her letters out on the same day she dropped them on my desk.  She’d taken them home and, after two weeks, finally had them all signed.

I reserved a conference room for half a day, just for the sole purpose of folding each and every one of those letters and placing them into respective envelopes with two of the officer’s business cards.  When my manager realized how far behind I was, he enlisted a few others to help me get them done.  One of the helpers was a fellow administrative assistant who loathed the idea of helping anyone do anything.  In between folding and stuffing, that one particular officer I supported kept yelling at me to answer her phone – while she conversed with another associate.  I finally told her to stop yelling at me.  She and that one admin, however, took the time to stand at the desk of the admin to the department supervisor and discuss beauty secrets with his roommate who did drag shows at local queer bars.  The roommate was on speaker phone.

The next day – after all the letters had been dispatched – I confronted my manager to complain about the fiasco.  His dismissive attitude, along with the eye-rolling response from that one officer and that one other assistant, served as the final knife into my back.  To enhance the aggravation, they pointed out that I’d taken the time to talk with my father (when their own family members would call several times a day) and then accused me of “fraternizing” with yet another admin.

Thus, my patience disintegrated faster than tequila at an open bar during a Mexican wedding.  The level of anger that spewed forth from beleaguered soul terrified even me.  My voice rose in such extreme anger that some people on the other side of the floor hear me.  When our department manager threatened to call security if I didn’t “calm down”, I took the liberty of calling them myself.  On speaker phone.  With that supervisor (and my immediate manager) standing beside me.  They were both stunned into silence, as the security official on the phone waited for a response.

“No, it’s okay,” replied the department supervisor.  For once she sounded nervous.

A security official did come into our area; as equally perplexed as he was curious about my call.  By then, however, the department supervisor’s boss – they were all C-level executives – had learned of the situation and consulted with me privately.  He was angered – not with me; but with my colleagues and my direct manager.  When he gathered all of us together, I thought that one officer, the one who’d accused me of “fraternizing”, was going to melt into a puddle of tears and shit.

I didn’t like what happened that day.  I didn’t like that it got so ugly.  Hostility breeds nothing but contempt.  But I had to take a stand.  I had to let people know how exactly I felt and why I was so angry.  I rightfully put the blame back on them; that if they’d shown me the respect I deserved as an adult and a business professional, none of that would have happened.  Then again, if I’d only said or done something earlier; if I’d just reacted sooner, the day would have proceeded more smoothly.

Sometimes, though, we do have to yell; we do have to make a scene.  It should never get to that, but it happens.  Some people just can’t grasp the concept of keeping peace in the neighborhood or maintaining a high degree of business professionalism.  We have to lower our intellect to their level, so they’ll comprehend what we’ve been trying to tell them.  I hate doing that – because it really does make us look emotionally unbalanced.  But occasionally, there’s just no other way.

The title character in “Joker” is embroiled in the same dilemma.  He’s trying desperately to remain relevant and garner respect.  He’s been beaten down and disrespected for far too long.  Then he explodes.  He’s been pushed to the violent breaking point.  And there are literally millions of people like him across the globe.

It all goes back to one of the most human of desires: to be acknowledged and respected.  The lack of respect creates hostility in the workplace, but it also launches wars and civil unrest.  We saw that here in the U.S. with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.  We saw it with the 2011 “Arab Spring”.  People can only take so much.

Whatever happens, it’s no laughing matter.  Respect will always equal dignity.

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Worst Quote of the Week – October 25, 2019

“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights.  All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching.  But we will WIN!”

– Faux-President Donald Trump, colorfully describing the impeachment inquiry by the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives

Still working (with surprisingly little effort) to maintain his role as ASSHOLE-in-Chief, Trump once again uses racist terminology to elicit sympathy from his brainless followers.

To put the concept of lynching back into historical perspective, the above photo was taken shortly before the lynching death of Henry Smith in Paris, Texas, in 1893 that was viewed by a crowd of 10,000 as a public spectacle.  An estimated 4,000 people have been lynched in the U.S. since the end of the Civil War, even as late as the 1960s; mostly Black, but also Native American, Hispanic and even some Whites.  Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama offers a stark view of the REAL victims of human intolerance.

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Things Jussie Smollett Could Have Done for His Career

As if things couldn’t get any stranger since the election of Donald Trump, the so-called actor known as Jussie Smollett has made a sad name for himself by apparently staging an assault on himself and claiming it was a hate crime.  Investigators in Chicago – where the alleged attack occurred – arrested Smollett on Thursday, the 21st, and charged him with fakery.  (Fakery is essentially the same as dumbfuckery.)  I’d heard of the show Empire, but I’d never heard of Smollett.  I mean, who has?  In the high-pressure universe of television entertainment, people are only as good as their last scandal.  But, if Smollett seriously wanted to advance his career, there are a number of things he could’ve done, instead of conjuring up a hate crime scenario.

To help him – and other would-be assholes who have dared even thinking of doing the same – I’ve composed a list of things Smollett might have done to enhance his notoriety.

 

  • Take acting lessons.
  • Post nude selfies to social media.
  • Get arrested with marijuana in his underwear.
  • Pose for Playgirl.
  • Announce he’s turned heterosexual.
  • Express his support for Donald Trump.
  • Rent an expensive sports car and wreck it.
  • State publicly he hates queer people.
  • Fake a seizure while on a plane.
  • Claim he had a one-night fling with Anderson Cooper.
  • Go to work part-time for Wal-Mart and say he needed the gig to supplement his income.
  • Say he has 4 testicles.
  • Travel to Acapulco for vacation and “disappear” for a few days.
  • Get into a fight with an old woman in a wheelchair.
  • Say he’s trying to find a child he thinks he fathered 20 years ago.
  • Start wearing a t-shirt that says, ‘I Beat Vitiligo.’
  • Visit a therapist claiming he’s a masturbation addict.
  • Tell everyone he’s NOT vegan and eats gluten.
  • Publicly condemn scientology.
  • Say he hates Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

 

On a more serious note, I have to confess my disdain for Smollett.  I’ve known plenty of non-White people who have been victimized by hate crimes (beyond name-calling), and most of the queer people I’ve known could recount one or more harrowing tales of hate crime episodes.  For Smollett to pay someone to inflict an attack on him, just for the sake of seeing his acting career skyrocket, is an offense to REAL victims of hate crimes.  It may also prevent future victims from reporting these events, lest they be questioned and even mocked.  You know the right-wing establishment is going to have a field day with this shit, don’t you!

Fabricating criminal behavior won’t advance anyone’s career, but it can set back the progress marginalized groups have made towards equality.  The public truly doesn’t care about the notoriety of a little-known actor on a ubiquitous television show.  But we do care about people who have fallen victim to hate and oppression.  Smollett can now fade into the obscurity where he was already languishing.  Maybe Wal-Mart will hire him.

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