The attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett was a sobering wake-up call for some… and “just another f—king day in America” for others.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Smollett was approached 2 a.m. on Tuesday, January 29, by two people around who yelled racial and homophobic slurs. He was hit and doused in an unknown chemical substance, reportedly bleach, and a rope was wrapped around his neck. The actor later told police his assailants said, “This is MAGA country.”
In the wake of the attack, friends and supporters of Smollett have joined activists and allies in condemning the racial and homophobic violence and pleading for the safety for queer people of color. Here are some of their words, starting with those of Empire co-creator Lee Daniels.
“It’s taken me a minute to come to social media about this because, Jussie, you are my son. You didn’t deserve nor anybody deserves to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called ‘die f—t n—r’ or whatever they said to you. You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home. It starts at home, yo. We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are because it shows that we are united on a united front and no racist f—k can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie. I’m with you. I’ll be there in a minute. It’s just another f—king day in America.”
“To have the audacity to be young, black, and gay is a beautiful way of living and is a loving that bigots and racists and homophobes want to snuff out. I don’t know @jussiesmollett personally. I’ve never met him, but my heart breaks for him and his family. For it to be 2019 and still have to fear that one day a noose might be tied around your neck is horrifying. For it to be 2019 and you cannot be gay without wondering, ‘Will this be the day that I’m attacked’ is unacceptable and deplorable. For it to be 2019 and the hideous poison that is MAGA and all it represents to be wildly unchecked from the top of the government all the way down to your average everyday street should makes us all have the biggest pits in our stomachs. Black and queer people just went to live. They just want to occupy the space on the planet that was made for them. They want to flourish and be happy and not worry and laugh about dumb s—t. And until they can do that, we have failed as a country. I don’t know that we’re better than this, but gahtdamn it, we ought to be.”
“What happened to him shouldn’t happen to anyone; that it happened to him, a famous person with means and a platform, is important to continue this discussion on a national level, but what of the black men whose lives become a footnote in the seemingly endless collection of police shootings, or the black trans women forced into victimhood by the sole merit of their existence?
“It’s 2019 and we deserve better. We all need to do better and be better or what’s left of this country’s soul will shrivel up and die like the promise of 40 acres and a mule made to freed slaves by their once and future oppressors.”
“It’s easy to take courage for granted when the person who demonstrates it is the star of a hit show, or has sold any number of records. It takes great risk for many queer people and POC to simply live as they are. Smollett took on more risk than many may have imagined, a recognition that deserves to be held.”
“The Chicago Police Department and FBI are now conducting an investigation into whether this incident was a hate crime, however we as Black queer people know the truth: It was.
“We know this because everyday our multiple marginalized identities increase our chances of facing racist, homophobic vitriol — and this fact has only intensified under the Trump administration with their dog whistle politics. So as we wait to see if justice is served for Smollett, we as Black queer people wait to see if America will finally see our lives as worth protecting.
“Because history has rarely been on the side of Black queer folk.”
“It’s important to acknowledge that the hate Smollett faced as a black gay man was a bi-product of society’s tolerance of racism and homophobia. There is racial bias in how LGBTQ people are protected in mainstream society, as there is homophobia in how black people are protected within their own community.
“Why isn’t there more support for murdered black trans women within the Black community as for slain cisgender black men? Why aren’t there more efforts to eradicate the HIV/AIDS crisis still impacting black gay men as there were for white gay men decades ago? These are the questions I ask myself daily when people try to suggest that I choose between an LGBTQ community or a black one.
“If we are to truly be a society that is serious about combating white supremacy, we have to recognize that racism and homophobia are byproducts that prolong such hate.”