After the conviction of Jussie Smollett, many in politics and the media admitted that the evidence against the actor was overwhelming despite the early coverage lionizing Smollett. Indeed, while Smollett garnered overwhelming coverage as a courageous victim, some have now objected to the coverage of the verdict as excessive. Some cable hosts simply ignored the conviction while CNN and MSNBC downplayed the verdict. Black Lives Matters stood with Smollett even though he accused two black witnesses of lying and hurt legitimate victims of racism. However, Cal State Pan-African Studies Department professor Melina Abdullah has gone further and declared that it does not matter what the evidence is: you must stand with Smollett and refuse to believe anything the police has to say on the matter.
Academics are often passionate and opinionated on public controversies. However, most professors feel that intellectual honesty demands acknowledgement of undeniable facts like videotapes supported by text messages, eye witness testimony, and frankly simply logic. Not Abdullah. The Black Lives Matter (LA) founder said on Tuesday “we can never believe police, especially the Chicago Police Department (CPD) over Jussie Smollett.”
Abdullah supports defunding police as “an irredeemable institution” and, despite a black mayor and police chief, insists that the Chicago Police Department remains brutally racist. In her statement, she declares:
As abolitionists, we approach situations of injustice with love and align ourselves with our community. Because we got us. So let’s be clear: we love everybody in our community. It’s not about a trial or a verdict decided in a white supremacist charade, it’s about how we treat our community when corrupt systems are working to devalue their lives. In an abolitionist society, this trial would not be taking place, and our communities would not have to fight and suffer to prove our worth. Instead, we find ourselves, once again, being forced to put our lives and our value in the hands of judges and juries operating in a system that is designed to oppress us, while continuing to face a corrupt and violent police department, which has proven time and again to have no respect for our lives.
In our commitment to abolition, we can never believe police, especially the Chicago Police Department (CPD) over Jussie Smollett, a Black man who has been courageously present, visible, and vocal in the struggle for Black freedom…
What is so striking is that Abdullah is declaring unquestioning love for someone who set back the cause of racial justice and real victims of racism. Indeed, Abdullah herself has undermined that cause by insisting that such claims must be blindly supported even when there is no evidence to support them and a mountain of evidence to refute them. Instead, she paints the jury, the court, and the legal system as racist, including presumably the African-American juror who voted to convict.
Abdullah is the former Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. She describes herself on her academic bio as a “womanist scholar-activist” and she has explained on Twitter (in response to the Wikipedia description of her beliefs as Marxist) that:
“I’m absolutely anti-capitalist…not a Marxist though. My beliefs are most aligned with African scientific socialism, with a heavy dose of womanism.”
You can also add an even heavier dose of denialism.