Our center helps executives in corporations, law firms, colleges and universities and other organizations understand how people across different racial and ethnic groups differently experience those environments. Our work sometimes entails conducting several dozen racially homogeneous focus group interviews over three or four days with people of color and their white counterparts. We also interview women and LGBT people about their encounters with sexism, homophobia and transphobia. I have heard hundreds of horrifying stories from people who have experienced varying degrees of mistreatment and violence on their campuses and at their jobs. For example, being called the n-word or some other racially derogatory term by a white classmate or co-worker is a disgracefully common experience, one we hear about on just about every campus and at a surprising number of companies…

Smollett recklessly put millions of Americans at risk of having their trauma disregarded. It is possible that even fewer victims who survive hate crimes and other acts of violence will feel comfortable coming forward to report these experiences to campus administrators, managers, elected officials and police officers because they will fear disbelief even more. The risk of being accused of lying is one reason lots of women remain silent about sexual harassment and sexual assault at their jobs. False reports are infrequent, but when they happen, women’s pursuits of justice and accountability are undermined. Untrue stories also place a more significant burden on people of color and LGBT people to prove that they were attacked or otherwise harmed. This was their reality long before Smollett allegedly lied. He made it worse for them.