AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - As we are watching this Jussie Smollett hoax unravel in Chicago, there's a bigger message here in Austin. "There are many aspects, the fact that it didn't happen, the fact that he exposed it, and the fact that he took away valuable resources who really might have challenges or problems."
Nelson Linder has been the president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP for 19 years, so he's had his fair share of seeing justice and injustice. He says when he first heard that actor Jussie Smollett was attacked, he was angry. And now that it's turned out to be far from the truth, he's disappointed.
He adds, "Pain because this is a very serious issue so to have an event staged like that, you're taking away valuable resources but also you're giving critics an opportunity to say something about folks that don't take this stuff seriously."
The Empire star on FOX told authorities he was assaulted on a Chicago street in late January. Claiming two men shouted racial and homophobic slurs, physically assaulted him and put a noose around his neck. Now police say he orchestrated the entire thing -- as a publicity stunt.
"What a noose means in this country the pain the hurt the seriousness you just can't,” Linder says.
Linder says the police superintendent in Chicago made it very clear that they took this hate crime very seriously. He feels here in Travis County hate crimes are underreported but the ones that are reported, are taken seriously. Linder says leaders need to be more vocal in encouraging victims to speak out.
"Too often I think people don't realize the seriousness of the crime they feel like they'll be attacked again or scandalized or they don't feel safe." Linder says over the years, he's received numerous calls from victims of hate crimes, not wanting to go public because the number one feeling they have is fear. And in Jussie Smollett's case, while the list of skeptics may get longer it's important to remember the most important detail. Linder adds, "As bad as this incident is, it's only one incident."
Emilie Kopp, board member of Equality Texas echoes those same thoughts.
"It is critical that we do not let this isolated incident detract what is real and what is happening right now. Hate crimes are on the rise there's more hateful rhetoric than ever there's more hate groups there has been in the last 20 years. We have to focus our efforts on turning that around. We need to make America a safe place to live with dignity and safety,” Kopp adds.
Linder also says Jussie Smollett needs some type of psycho-evaluation because this was a very bizarre thing to do, given the significance and consequences.