FILE – In this March 26, 2019, file photo, actor Jussie Smollett talks to the media before leaving Cook County Court after his charges were dropped, in Chicago. On Friday, July 19, 2019, lawyers for Smollett filed motions contending the actor was the victim of an attack in an effort to convince a judge to reverse his decision to appoint a special prosecutor in the case. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)
A Southaven, MS man, Trumaine Foster, who is black, called the police on February 4 to report that someone had spray painted racist graffiti on his two cars.
According to WREGNews3, the word “N******” was written twice on one vehicle. and the words, “Leave N****** and Trump” on the other.
Foster was taken into custody Friday and charged with insurance fraud and tampering with evidence, but Southaven police stopped short of explicitly saying Foster was responsible for the graffiti.
WREG has learned Foster owns a body shop in Olive Branch. Multiple people in the automotive community tell us he specializes in painting cars. One of those people even tells us he painted his wife’s car after it was spray-painted.
A woman at Foster’s home Friday afternoon ignored WREG’s questions before driving off in one of the cars that had been spray-painted. (The graffiti had since been removed).
Following Foster’s arrest, a WREG reporter spoke to several of his neighbors. Shelby Littleton said, “That it was a hoax just kind of made us look silly…That’s just embarrassing. That’s absolutely embarrassing.”
Her husband, Bradley Littleton, told the reporter, “To make something up, that just does not make sense to me.”
Foster is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.
What would motivate someone to commit a hate crime hoax? In Jussie Smollett’s case, the most high profile hoax in recent memory, he wanted publicity. For Foster, maybe his wife’s car needed a new paint job, and he thought he could bill the insurance company at the market rate and, because he paints cars for a living, he could do the job himself for far less and pocket the difference.
Perhaps one or both wanted to portray themselves as victims of a racial attack to make a political statement.
Some probably welcome the attention.
But the rise in the number of hoaxes in the age of Trump has made it difficult for those who truly are the victims of hate crimes to be believed.
Another consequence of hoax crimes is the waste of time spent by law enforcement officers. This was made plain when the Chicago Police Department presented Smollett with a $130,000 bill to offset the number of hours police spent trying to track down his “attackers.” Everyone who reports a nonexistent crime should be made to pay a bill for the time police department personnel spend on their cases.
The Washington Post relates an incident that occurred at Kansas State University in the fall of 2017. A car parked on campus was spray painted with racist graffiti, just as Foster claimed his had been. The university’s president immediately “suspended classes and held a campus-wide rally to denounce hatred.”
Ultimately, the student who owned the car acknowledged he was responsible, the police did not press charges.
The Black Student Union on campus disagreed strongly with this decision. They issued a statement which said, “the fact that an African American man committed this act should not undermine its effect on K-State students” and “does not negate the current racist and discriminatory actions that continue to occur on our campus and in our community, state and nation.”
It’s also said that “one hoax can inspire another.” In November 2018, at the same university, “a student posted a photo of a racist sign he claimed to have found on his apartment door. He later admitted to campus police that he created the sign himself.”
An additional example of this occurred in July 2018. “Servers at Texas restaurants said they received racist notes scrawled on receipts by customers, claims that circulated widely on social media. In both cases, the servers confessed to having written the slurs themselves.”
How often does it happen? It’s impossible to know.
The WaPo cites Wilfred Reilly, a political scientist at Kentucky State University and author of “Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War,” who believes that less than “20% of reported hate crimes are fabricated.”
They also cite Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, who “puts the hoax rate much lower, at less than half of 1 percent.”
Although I profess to have no idea what the reality is, “less than half of 1 percent” sounds ridiculous to me.