It has been almost two years since the Jussie Smollett race hoax scandal. Yet, we see very little critical analysis around accusations of racism in American society in the media or in common discourse.
To contribute toward meaningful discussions around racism, we thought it would be helpful to provide a list of fake hate crimes.
It behooves us as a society to think critically about accusations of racism and hate in America. But when the waters are muddied by media influencers trying to go viral, racism takes on a gross sense of permanence.
Instead of concrete strategies to end bigotry and hatred, the media seeks to paint a distopian picture where racism will never end. This listicle will red pill you against such a delusion.
Wilfred Riley is the author of Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War. And a useful lens to navigate this list. His work outlines how exaggerated claims of racism in society impede the pursuit of justice. Riley wrote an article reflecting on the Smollett case. And he urged readers to think critically about accusations of racism.
People of goodwill should also begin to—loudly—contribute to the conversation around this issue and a number of related topics, keeping in mind the empirical data on the rates of real hate crime, hoax hate crime, interracial crime, and so on. So long as citizens are not yet too intimidated to express them, real facts have a tremendous advantage over disinformation, and can help bring a greater measure of justice to the increasingly hyperbolic and dangerously misrepresented matter of hate crime.
Fake Hate Crimes
The following list represents some of the more sensational false hate crimes. Although a small portion of all reported hate crimes, they are noteworthy for how the media exaggerated the claims. Unlike other hate crime lists, this list seeks to highlight instances that are hoaxes or mischaracterizations.
Our goal here is to undermine the false narrative that seeks to place racism as the central problem in society. It is our hope that our readers may begin to use this list to contextualize racism within the milieu that is the human condition.
1/ Jussie Smollett MAGA Assault Hoax
January 29, 2019. Jussie Smollett reported to police of a race assault by two MAGA supporters. This was false. In reality, he hired two Nigerian-Americans to stage a fake hate crime assault. Despite efforts by media, journalists and political jurists Smollett faces numerous charges against him.
2/ A Fishing Uni Knot Mistook for a Noose by UM Medical Dean
June 20, 2019. In a case of mistaken knots, University of Michigan Medical School dean Marschall S. Runge, MD, PhD found a Uni Knot on a shared desk. He mistook it for a noose and reported it to authorities. The Uni Knot is a popular fishing knot.
3/ Georgia State Lawmaker, Erica Thomas Altercation at an Express Check-out Lane
July 2019. The then 9-month pregnant lawmaker, Erica Thomas thought she would save some time using an express check-out lane. This upset Eric Sparkes who cursed at her and told her to get out of the line. In a Facebook Live feed, Thomas accused Sparkes of saying “go back to where you came from.” Sparkes disputes this claim, instead claiming that he said, “Well, you’re a selfish little bitch.” Although uncouth, this incident is hardly a hate crime, but national media framed it as such.
4/ Black Man Commits Hate Crime but Media and Prosecutors Refuse to Prosecute
August 2019. Alvin Brown was accused of vandalizing a string of homes. Brown knew at least one of the victims. Although he spray painted racist messaging on the homes, Police did not see this as a racial hate crime. Apparently if you are Black then hateful speech can only appear as hateful. Soft racism at its finest!
5/ Edawn Coughman, former NFL player, stages a fake hate crime
September 13, 2019. Edawn Coughman vandalized his own property in hopes of getting insurance money. Security footage of Coughman leaving his business during the time of the incident and police finding a crowbar and black spray paint in his truck sealed the deal for this one.
6/ Amari Allen dreadlock cutting hoax
September 30, 2019. Twelve-year-old Amari Allen accused three white boys of cutting her dreadlocks. She also claimed that these boys called her “ugly” and her hair “nappy”. Soon after, though, Amari and her mother admitted that the accusations were false.
7/ 4 Teens Falsely Accused by Blind Transgender Woman
December 11, 2019. An altercation occurred at the International Blvd. Station in Tukwila, WA between 4 teens and a blind transgender woman. The woman accused the teens of shouting slurs and attacking her. But after the release of footage, it became clear that she was the aggressor.
8/ Triggered Justice Warrior Falsely Associates Historical Document with Anti-Muslim flyer
January 2020. In Dekalb County, GA a resident began sharing a document thought to be an Antisemitic flyer. Apparently this resident found a lost research document and associated it with a single anti-Muslim car flyer found by police earlier. Before things were figured out, demands that these documents be charged with a hate crime went viral throughout the Jewish community in the Toco Hills area.
9/ Black man Vandalizes Cecil B. Moore Mural
February 2020. A Cecil B. Moore Mural in North Philadelphia. But before authorities put out images of a Black vandal, news organizations associated vandalism with white supremacists. What does the media do when the motives are first associated with historic racism but turn out to be something else entirely? Ignore it and move on to drum up a new outrage.
10/ Social Justice Warrior Creates Her Own Racism and is Caught
March 2020. Starting in 2019 and into the 2020 a California University of La Verne experienced at least 10 reports of racism and hate crimes. After an extended investigation and numerous calls for diversity training, it turns out that 25 year old former student Anayeli Dominguez Pena made it all up. While the full motivations for her behavior may never be known, the quick to action triggered mob in the face of uncertain accusations is quite clear.
11/ Black Gym Owner Reflects Upon POC Writing “white pride” Outside his Business
March 2020. A female person of color got arrested for minor vandalism outside of a place of business. The punchline? The owner is one of the few Black owners in the space. Fortunately, he kept his cool and compassion. Instead of going on a Twitter tirade, he investigated security footage and identified a woman clearly disheveled. What is the greater danger to our society? Racism or Mental Health?
12/ Online Troll Pretending to be a white MAGA terrorist actually a 20 year old Black man
May 10, 2020. After threats against pro-Ahmaud Arbery protestors, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced they found the suspect. A 20 year old Black man by the name of Rashawn Smith. Rashawn created a false Facebook account under the name “John Hutto” and proceeded to go on a racially and violently charged rant.
13/ Black Man Responsible for Vandalizing Campus with Racial Slurs
June 2020. A string of racist graffiti for over a year on the campus of Salisbury University in Mayland came to an end with the arrest of 54 year old Jerome Kevin Jackson. These attacks caused great distress on the campus and a series of steps for greater racial awareness was set forth by the University. It just so happens that these hate crimes were perpetuated by a Black man. Apparently racism can be colorblind. Or perhaps this is but another example that rejects the false-binary of anti-racism.
14/ Detectives’ Endowment Association falsely claim Shake Shack poisoning as Intentional
June 2020. Three officers got sick from cleaning solution accidentally left in a Shake Shack Milkshake machine. Prior to this finding, the NYPD Detectives Union went on a Twitter rampage claiming the offers were “intentionally poisoned by one or more workers.” These incindiary accusations came during George Floyd protests around the country and the world.
15/ Construction Knot Mistaken for a Racist Noose
June 2020. Another story that does more to perpetuate our ignorance of knots than it does to highlight systemic racism in America. A passerby at Harlem Park noticed a rope closely resembling a Bowline knot and called it a noose. After taking pictures and sharing it online, the media took the story by the horns It turns out the rope was used for hauling construction material. The moral of the story? Learn your knots people!
16/ Ropes Used for Exercise in Oakland, Mistaken for Nooses by Mayor
June 18, 2020. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Mayor of Oakland called for a hate crime investigation for ropes found hanging in a city park. The site of bowline knots on trees and the direct testimony of Victor Sengbe (a Black man!) are not enough to dissuade this mayor of her triggered crusade. Apparently, Black people are triggered by the site of rope on trees, regardless of the knot deployed or its intended purpose. Good to know.
17/ The Bubba Wallace Knot Conspiracy
June 2020. It appears that June was Knot month for the United States. Despite the posturing of NASCAR officials and the obfuscation by NASCAR fans, it would seem that the preferred knot deployed in hangar #4 was a hangman’s noose. But was this a hate crime? Not likely. Instead, I would chock this up to good ol’ boy “humor” that Bubba unwittingly fell into.
18/ Oregonian Running for Local Office Busted for Sending Self Hate Mail
July 7, 2020. In a ploy to get elected for county commissioner, Jonathan Lopez wrote a racist letter to himself. Authorities and activists alike condemned this action upon discovering this letter of self-hate. There is a positive note to this story, though. Before Lopez shut down his public Facebook account, he let the world know that “I hold no resentment for whom ever wrote this; I’m just simply heart broken for the lack of knowledge, education and respect missing.”
If you know any that we have not mentioned here, leave it in the comments below.