On Tuesday, Jan. 29, “Empire” star Jussie Smollett was violently attacked in Chicago by two people yelling racist and homophobic slurs at him. Smollett is black and gay, as is his character on the show. The assailants punched him in the face, poured unknown chemicals on him and tied a rope around his neck. Fortunately, Smollett was able to walk away from the attack, and doctors cleared him to perform the following Saturday in Los Angeles.
At this performance, Smollett reassured the audience he was going okay after the attack.
“I’m not fully healed yet,” he said to the audience. “But I’m going to, and I’m gonna stand strong with y’all.”
After Smollett was attacked, actors and activists took to social media to express solidarity with the actor and express concerns with the events that transpired.
Fellow “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson posted about the attack on Instagram.
“I wish what happened to my baby was just one big bad joke but it wasn’t and we all feel his pain right now. @jussiesmollett is pure love to the bone AND THAT IS WHY SO MANY ARE FEELING HIS PAIN BECAUSE IT IS OUR PAIN!!! I tell you one thing HATE WILL NOT WIN!!!! My baby is resilient and love still lives in him. The devil and his minions are very busy right now but one thing is for sure and two things are for certain #GODIS and that is all I know. This song needs to be downloaded until it goes triple platinum because the message is NEEDED. #weareresilientpeople AND #weaintgoingnowhereuntillwearefinished. The love so many have for him just goes to show HE IS LOVE!!!! I LOVE YOU MY BABY MY BABY!!! #LOVEWINSALWAYS. 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾💋💋💋”
Pop singer Halsey also tweeted about the attack and commented on what it says about our current social climate.
An attempted lynching in 2019. Where’s the “get over it, it’s in the past” crowd now? This is absolutely disgusting and it’s a reality. Justice for #JussieSmollett I’m sick.
— h (@halsey) January 30, 2019
“An attempted lynching in 2019. Where’s the “get over it, it’s in the past” crowd now? This is absolutely disgusting and it’s a reality. Justice for #JussieSmollet I’m sick.”
Actress Ellen Page also commented on the attacks during her appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and said the attacks were a result of the homophobic beliefs of Vice President Mike Pence.
“If you are in a position of power, and you hate people, and you want to cause suffering to them, you go through the trouble, you spend your career trying to cause suffering — what do you think is going to happen?” Page said. “Kids are going to be abused, and they’re going to kill themselves. People are going to be beaten on the street.”
It is reported the assailants yelled during the attack, “This is MAGA country”, referring to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
But, America is better with diverse people of all identities — including but not limited to Jussie Smollett. Yet, America seems to be reverting back to pre-Civil Rights beliefs about people of color and those in the LBGTQA+ community. At least it feels like the country is becoming more intolerant of these people.
In this country, there shouldn’t be an “us” and a “them”. We are all Americans and we all deserve the basic rights to live and love who we want to, no matter how we look on the outside. These things should not put a target on someone’s back.
Lynching has no place in America, and events like these should stay in America’s dark days of intolerance. Yet, we’re hurtling right back into them.
The attack on Smollett deeply hurt people of color and those in the LBGTQA+ community, among others. But it needs to hurt all of us. Those of us who are not directly affected by an attack like this should ask why, and how we can use our privilege to make the country better for our marginalized brothers and sisters.
Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Now is the time to act out and speak on the behalf of these communities to show them they are not the “others” in our country. Now is the time for acceptance and tolerance. Intolerance is the way of the past. Let’s keep it that way.
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