Further news updates since the publication of this post have indicated that the story was fabricated. To abuse our sympathy, loyalty and kindness for personal gain is a grave insult to the many people who work hard to protect and stand up for people like myself, who are at risk of targeted persecution, mistreatment and violence.
Incidents like this means victims of hate crimes and abuse are meant with more skepticism and disbelief exactly when such victims need our compassion and humanity the most.
Jussie Smollett was attacked because he’s gay and he’s Black.
There are rumors flying all around the Internet about the exact events surrounding the attack on the ‘Empire’ actor, which I will not repeat here.
What I will repeat are the general facts already reported by The Chicago Sun-Times and The Chicago Tribune:
- that Smollett was walking in the 300 block of East North Lower Water Street at 2 a.m. Tuesday;
- that he said two people approached him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs;
- that he was hit and an unknown substance poured on him, and a rope was wrapped around his neck;
- Earlier reports described this rope as a noose, although Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Sun-Times that it was a “thin, light rope” and didn’t necessarily resemble a noose;
- that Smollett, in a follow-up report to police detectives, said the two assailants shouted “this is MAGA country”.
This was not a one-off occurrance. This was the manifestation of a long-running and low-level, unorganized campaign against queer people and people of color.
This is why LGBTQ+ individuals are sensitive to the portrayal of their stories and their experiences in the mass media. This is why communities of color are upset when their individual and collective sufferings are dismissed or ignored. This is the violence they talk about when individuals from these communities speak up about attacks against them.
Did I say “them”? I mean us. I meant we.
Marriage equality might have become of the law of the United States in 2015, but discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals didn’t end then. The Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964, but discrimination against peoples of color — especially Black people — didn’t end then.
Our struggle hasn’t ended. The violence against us hasn’t ended.
I cannot tell you how much I dream that one day I’ll be able to kiss the boy I love without the fear that cold, hard metal will crash against my skull because of it.