Twice in 2019, actor Jussie Smollett shocked the world. First, when news broke that he was the victim of a despicable racist and homophobic assault. Second, when an investigation showed that he had fabricated the entire incident.
Though it captured headlines, Smollett’s story is far from unique, with other similar cases to be found, especially on college campuses. In recent years, many schools have turned themselves inside out looking for the perpetrators of racist acts, only to find that the only responsible party was the alleged victims themselves.
This is not to deny that hate crimes do happen and are incontrovertibly reprehensible. But it’s also important to understand that hate crime hoaxes are not without real victims, perhaps most obviously those who are falsely accused of being the perpetrator.
These fabrications also victimize minority students who are unfairly made to feel afraid, unsafe, and unwelcome on their own campuses. And, perhaps worst of all, each hoax that is busted undermines the claims of true victims of actual hate crimes, who are deserving of compassion, not suspicion.
With that being said, here are five schools that were torn apart by hate crime hoaxes:
1. Albion College
Earlier this month, racist graffiti was found in a dorm at Albion College in Michigan. Some of the scrawling read “KKK,” “White Power,” “Die N*****,” and even “Albion is racist. We do exist.” Members of the community were rightfully outraged. Campus authorities put out a $1,000 bounty and nearly 500 students and faculty joined in a protest.
When a 21-year-old black young man who attends Albion College was questioned by police, however, he admitted to being the perpetrator. Video evidence supported the confession. The college says he acted alone, and he has since been temporarily suspended from school.
2. University of La Verne
In 2019, a string of ten racially motivated incidents rocked the University of La Verne in California. Harassment was directed at members of an anti-racist student activist group, Decolonize UVL. They received anonymous threats on social media, including one that read, “This ain’t no f****** colored America.”
Then, incidents escalated when a student claimed that her car was set on fire, and that she was later viciously attacked by a masked individual who groped her in a school stairwell and slammed her head against a railing. The school scrambled to respond, calling emergency town hall meetings, cancelling classes, increasing security, and providing students with escorts around campus.
After nearly a year of investigations, however, a co-leader of the Decolonize UVL group was found to be the perpetrator. She was also the owner of the car and victim of the alleged attack. She had filed false police reports and even applied for monetary reward with the California Victim Compensation Board. She now faces felony charges along with seven misdemeanor charges.
3. Salisbury University
In late 2019 and early 2020, racist and menacing graffiti appeared twice on Salisbury University’s campus in Maryland. The doors and walls of two buildings were defaced with racial slurs and even the threat “Sandy Hook comes to SU.” Upon their discovery, Salisbury cancelled classes in a moment of solidarity for the community.
Last summer, however, a middle-aged black man admitted to being the perpetrator and pled guilty in court. According to the school, he has no known connection to campus. He was charged with a hate crime for the strife he caused and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
4. Smith College
In the summer of 2018, a black student at Smith College in Massachusetts took to Facebook to share her anxiety after a janitor called campus police on her while eating lunch in a dorm lounge. She worried the police officer could have been armed and wrote, “All I did was be Black. It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith College, and my existence overall as a woman of color.”
Administrators, and even the college president, apologized profusely to the student. The school then placed the janitor in question on paid leave. They rolled out anti-bias training for staff as the story made national headlines. Her claim that she was harassed for “eating while black” was even ultimately taken up by the ACLU.
A long investigation conducted by a law firm, however, revealed there was no wrongdoing.
The student had been eating in a closed dorm room during the summer, and the janitor — a senior with poor vision — was merely following instructions by reporting an unauthorized individual in a closed campus building. The report found no evidence of racial motivation, but the janitor’s career and reputation was irreversibly damaged in the process.
5. Immanuel Christian School
In 2019, a middle school girl at Immanuel Christian School in Virginia made headlines when she accused three white male students of cutting off her dreadlocks. She reported that they pinned her down and held her hands behind her back while calling her hair “ugly” and “nappy.”
After national news outlets picked up the story and the nation spoke out in support of the young girl, the school announced the claims were fabricated. The girl admitted that, while she did get into a verbal confrontation with the boys, she embellished the story. The boys never laid hands on her.
After the revelation, the family said they were devastated and embarrassed. They apologized to the accused boys, the school, and the nation alike: “To the broader community, who carried in support for our daughter, we apologize for betraying your trust.”
6. Air Force Academy
Even the Air Force Academy was thrown into a panic in 2017 when five black cadet candidates at the Academy’s prep school found racial slurs written on the white boards on their dorm room doors, including one that said, “Go home,” followed by a racial epithet.
The Academy publicly condemned the acts and conducted a month-long probe into the incident.
After a forensic examiner compared handwriting samples to the white board scrawling, investigators zeroed in on one cadet. One of the five alleged victims confessed to writing the hateful messages.
Drawing attention to incidents like these is critical, not to cast doubt on legitimate claims of hate crimes, but in the defense of truth. Such fabrications are entirely unacceptable. They needlessly ruin lives and traumatize communities.
From public figures like Jussie Smollett to students on campuses nationwide, perpetrators of hoaxes must be held to account. In a moment of enormous racial tension, agitators knowingly rub salt in wounds to seek attention at the expense of truth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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