“I ask you not to question our pain.”
Ellen Page last month emotionally blamed the Trump administration for what was being investigated as a hate crime against Jussie Smollett. Appearing on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” she also accused the media of being too skeptical about Smollett’s story, saying, “This shit is not a debate.”
Now that Smollett – a gay and black star of Fox’s “Empire” – has been charged with filing a false police report for allegedly staging a crime against himself, the Canadian actress is outraged that the media is talking about how wrong people like her appear to have been – instead of about the supposed surge of real hate crimes in the United States.
In a column published Wednesday by The Hollywood Reporter, she said that LGBT people live in constant fear of “hate violence.”
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“If this situation was staged,” she said, referring to the Smollett affair, “it could make victims even more reluctant to report these crimes. Very real crime.” Crimes that she said are “prevalent and pernicious.”
Page went on to demand that the media stop talking so much about Smollett and start talking more about the “the reality and totality of the cruelty and danger we face” – with “we” being “LGBTQ+ people, people of color and other underrepresented communities.”
“I ask you not to question our pain, not to draw into question our trauma, but to maintain, wholeheartedly, that hate violence exists,” she said. “The merits of one case should not and cannot call that into question. The media coverage does not convey the reality and totality of the cruelty and danger we face. This is the story that must be told.”
As proof of the extent of the problem, Page referred to her personal experiences of “bulling and sexual violence” as a “queer but white cisgender woman.” The situation is even worse for more marginalized people, she said, some of whom she has met while filming her Netflix documentary series “Gaycation.”
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Page also cited FBI data that shows reported hate crimes in America rose 17 percent in 2017, and a study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs on LGBT hate crimes and domestic violence that recorded a record number of “hate violence homicides” in 2017.
“The statistics are plentiful and powerful and all point to a rising tide of hate violence,” Page claimed.
However, the FBI hate crime data does not necessarily reveal a rise in hate crimes, but only of reported hate crimes – and 1,000 more agencies began reporting the crimes to the feds between 2016 and 2017.
As for the LGBT study, it actually found that reported hate violence dropped 20 percent in 2017, part of a steady decline since 2010. The group attributed the fall to “normalization” of anti-LGBT violence and reduced data collection, not to growing American tolerance. It also acknowledged that its survey is not properly representative as it relies on self-reporting by its member programs.
For her part, Page stated that LGBT people are deterred from speaking up about their plight by “the rhetoric we read and the hate speech we hear comes from our politicians, our media and entertainment, our neighbors and families and our religious leaders.”
“We lose hope as we continue to be victimized,” she said, citing stats on the relatively high rate of suicide among LGBT youth. “The cruelty, the hate and the words manifest shame.”
Whatever the reasons, the existing statistics are inconclusive on whether or not hate crimes are rising. Some experts and commentators have argued that the real upward trend is in hate crime hoaxes. Quillette editor Andy Ngo earlier this month tweeted out a long list of examples, and political scientist Wilfred Reilly compiled an even longer list of 409 cases, which he examines in a forthcoming book.
Reason magazine’s Kmele Foster made the case on CNN on Feb. 17 that “there is far less racism in America today than there ever has been. There is far less homophobia.”
“There’s a great deal of ambiguity of what makes something a hate crime,” he also said. “There are subjective determinations there.”
— Andrew Wimsatt (@ajwimsatt) February 17, 2019
Writing in Quillette last week, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning argued that hate crimes “thrive in a culture of victimhood” because the false claims confer moral status and are more likely to be believed than in cultures of honor or dignity. Drawing on their 2018 book on victimhood culture, they said the vaporization of victims is spreading from American campuses across society.
“In a victimhood culture, even when hate crime hoaxes are exposed, they are excused as an attempt to raise awareness of a real problem or as the understandable reaction of someone suffering from so much unrecognized oppression,” the researchers said.
Page in her essay stopped short of again blaming Trump for what she sees as America’s hate crime problem, but only barely. She said: “Hatred toward otherized people is institutionalized here and across the globe and reinforced by political rhetoric.”
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