In a country where the humanity of LGBT people and people of color is already seen as up for debate, those who fake hate crimes do a disservice to actual victims like Gooden and Tolbert. We should be able to talk about this quotidian, everyday anti-LGBT violence—the stuff that happens to people whose names you’ve never heard of—without a high-profile celebrity incident to fuel the conversation.
That is the difficult task ahead of us now. Those who used the Smollett attack to score points against President Trump don’t have to walk back their fervent opposition to the administration’s anti-LGBT policies—and their harmful real-world effects—to revise earlier statements in light of new information. And those who would use this felony charge against Smollett to score points against those who believed the actor need to pause and ask themselves if they’re actually concerned about the impact of a false report on marginalized groups like LGBT people or people of color—because if they are, they should be devastated by the latest Smollett news, not gleeful about it.