Chicago has been featured in two national headlines this week, one being the freezing low temperatures, and the other being that of a heartbreaking hate crime. Jussie Smollett, a musician and actor, was attacked early last Tuesday by two masked men. Smollett, a cast member for the tv show “Empire” is black, queer and a well-spoken activist who has called out the actions of President Trump.
Fox Studies received a letter earlier in the week addressed to Smollett, including cut out magazine letters and homophobic slurs. The image appears to have a stick figure drawing being lynched, with the phrase, “you will die black f*g.” The police are still investigating if the threat of the letter and the attack are actually connected. The actor allegedly refused the recommendations of Fox to up security measures after this threat, as he didn’t want to be surrounded by bodyguards on a casual night out.
As he was walking home at two in the morning, getting a late night snack, he was attacked. The men beat him, poured an unknown chemical substance on him, and wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck. During the physical attack, Smollett was also degraded verbally as the assailants shouted racial and homophobic slurs, as well as something along the lines of, “this is MAGA country,” which references the slogan “Make America Great Again,” the 2016 campaign slogan of now President Donald Trump. There was possibly also a “MAGA” reference on the aforementioned letter, though it is hard to decipher. After the assault, the actor walked himself to Northwestern’s Hospital, where he is reported to have recovered enough to leave a day later.
The violent actions can be described as nothing but homophobic and racist. The alarming part should not be that this was a crime against a celebrity, but that it was a crime against a person in the year 2019. There has been much backlash as news organizations such as the LA Times reported the article, avoiding directly calling the crime racist, using dialogue such as “racially charged.” While arguably there is validity in wanting to refrain from this language, there is no discrepancy that the act was labelled homophobic by various outlets. To some degree, there is a point where a noose wrapped around a black man’s neck in an attempted lynching must be called racist.
The saddening truth is that this incident is not isolated or unique. For the LGBT+ community, it is not getting easier to be open about your sexuality and feel accepted. The FBI reported that there was a 17 percent increase in hate crimes in 2017, and the number continues to rise. Black members of the gay community are often put on the backburner, and Smollett was an advocate trying to raise awareness and end the hate. Several organizations that Smollett worked with, such as GLAAD, released statements praising his courageousness and selflessness for the community. Jussie is reported to be recovering as these messages of love are overflowing on his social media outlets. The perpetrators have not yet been identified or apprehended.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment