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Jussie Smollett of 'Empire' Was Attacked In A Hate Crime

By Mieka Strawhorn | TV | January 29, 2019 |

By Mieka Strawhorn | TV | January 29, 2019 |


You’ve probably already heard that today (and as it seems, most days), America hosted another vicious and brazen hate crime. In Chicago, two homophobic racists attacked Jussie Smollett early Tuesday morning. Jussie is an actor, activist, and singer. On the TV show Empire, Jussie’s character is gay. Jussie himself is gay (he came out on Ellen). Jussie is also black. Last week, a letter was sent to Jussie at Fox Studios (Empire’s home) that reportedly contained “threatening language” (euphemisms will be the death of us). Other sources were more explicit, reporting that the letter had “you will die black fag” glued on it in cut-out letters, and it was laced with a white powdery substance (believed to be crushed up Tylenol). It may have had MAGA scrawled across the envelope where the return address should be (a detail worthy of O. Henry). Jussie’s a prominent, out, gay, black man in America, and this letter’s existence is sadly unsurprising. Marginally surprising, however, is that the letter came to life, like a clay golem animated by audacity’s kiss, and attacked Jussie on the streets of Chicago.

The details of the attack are horrific. His assailants put a noose around his neck. An unknown chemical substance was poured on him (some reports have stated it was bleach). He was called a f*ggot. He was called a n*gger. The necessity of those two asterisks prove the power of those words. And as powerful as they are here, not even fully rendered, they are exponentially more powerful when said in anger. And more powerful still when accompanied by physical violence, as they so often are, here in America.

Jussie was beaten by two white men wearing ski masks. Jussie fought back. He reported that his attackers shouted “this is MAGA country” during the ordeal. Jussie was treated for a fractured rib and released from Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Police (and the FBI) are investigating this as a “possible” hate crime, more commonly known as Tuesday Morning in America. This is who we are.

The bile keeps rising in my throat and my stomach has been clenched in rage all day. I’m going to take a quick break and let some of Jussie’s friends and fellow human beings speak (or in Jenifer Lewis’s case, sing) for a minute.

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THIS HATE CRIME against our brother @jussiesmollett is proof that no matter how famous you may be it still does not protect you from vicious racist homophobes !! AND It is still a risk daily to be a BLACK , OUT , and PROUD human being . I am sending so much love to you Jussie . Praying for your healing . Thank you for being such an inspiration to me & soooooo mannnnny people . Thank you for inspiring us to walk in our truth . Thank you for choosing freedom over fear . I will continue to walk BOLD , BLACK , & PROUD in your honor always . 🖤🌈 With love from your bi/pan/free ass mothafucka sis This pic is of me thanking him for sending flowers after the RS article (which gave me great anxiety btw). What a kind kind kind soul .

A post shared by Janelle Monáe (@janellemonae) on

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We got this @jussiesmollett 🌈👊🏾👊🏾

A post shared by Lee Daniels (@theoriginalbigdaddy) on

I don’t need to tell you that the spin around this story has already been ugly. And until there is video proof showing the attack going down exactly as reported, we’ll all be seeing the range of lines that start with “but what about…” or “let’s not jump to any conclusions…”, or “until we have all the facts…”, or “something just doesn’t add up…”, and a never-ending stream of “well what was he wearing/doing there/saying/expecting…”. But here’s all I need to know about it: Jussie, an openly gay black man in America, was attacked by hooded racist homophobes. And it happens every day.

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Mieka is a staff contributor. You can follow her on Twitter.

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