Responding with Smollett

Kassidy Crown

Graceless attitude towards victims helps none


The attempted lynching of Jussie Smollett last week shows how divided and how graceless the American public is when it comes to hate crimes against minority populations.

Smollett, who is the star of Fox’s show “Empire,” was targeted in what is being called a homophobic hate crime. Two men in Chicago wearing Make America Great Again (MAGA) hats attacked Smollett and poured a chemical, believed to be bleach, on him.

The attackers left Smollett with a noose around his neck, shouting, “This is MAGA country!” as they left. Smollett, who identifies as queer, is in the hospital and expected to recover.

As the country begins to respond to this horrific act, we must consider this a call to action. We cannot stand by idly and allow those who will hurt others to go free.

The same energy that sparked the #MeToo movement and the drive to listen to victims and believe their stories must be applied here. We cannot simply pick and choose who we listen to and choose to support.

This incident is not a one-off occurrence. Two black men were lynched in Oklahoma in 2018, according to NewsOne writer Parker Riley.

Smollett has released a public statement after the attack, stating that, “These types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers, and non-gender conforming siblings daily. I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident.”

Yet there are many in this country that would take an incident like this as a moment to cause more division.

Vibe Magazine is attempting to pit queer black men and straight black men against each other by calling out the latter for not speaking up on the issue. This type of baiting between sexualities shows how divided America still is, and how we still try to discredit the victim.

Just as men will try to discredit women’s report of harassment or assault by calling them crazy, Vibe Magazine claims straight black men are not showing solidarity with Smollett.

This claim is both dangerous and divisive, and we cannot stand for it.

Further complicating the issue is Smollett’s alleged refusal to give his phone over to police that would provide proof that he was on his phone with his manager before the attack.

However, these claims have been refuted by Smollett in his statement, where he claims that he has been cooperative with authorities. His family has also released
a statement saying that Smollett has always been factual when dealing with the police.

No footage of the attack has been procured as of yet, though detectives have been able to track stretches of his walk from his apartment to the Subway shop he visited before the attack, according to Chicago Tribune writer Rosemary Sobol.

Lynchings were a once common occurrence in the South between the 1880s and 1970s. In modern times, violence against black populations by police officers and racial profiling is a similarly common reality.

For example, one study according to CNN found that white interviewers will sit further away from black applicants and will end the interview 25 percent sooner than with white applicants.

The division of the country between races and sexuality has only grown since Trump has entered the office, allowing an ugly side to the American public to resurface.

The American public is not showing grace to Jussie Smollett, they are questioning his status as a victim by questioning his cooperation with police, while our president’s only comments on the incident were that it was “horrible.”

#MeToo and Smollett’s attempted lynching should not be considered separate cases. We must stand unified against injustice and approach this attack with the same acceptance and earnestness that the women who told their stories of abuse and harassment received.

We cannot and should not hypocritically pick our causes to support because the color of a man’s skin has changed or his sexuality.

Injustice is injustice. Racism is racism. If we don’t stand against it, how can we keep our integrity?