By Elise Hsu, Staff Writer
4,743 lynchings took place from 1882-1968. Nearly 5,000 hate crimes, 5,000 racist murders, all in under 100 years. But we are done with that, right? 1968 was a long time ago, and those days are behind us… aren’t they? Maybe not.
January 29th, 2019 was a normal day for most people. But for Jussie Smollett, a gay black actor who is most famous for starring in the American drama series Empire, it was anything but. Early that day, Smollett was attacked by two unknown people who hurled racist and homophobic insults like “MAGA country” at him while he was walking in a Chicago neighborhood. When he turned to look at them, they started battering his face and then proceeded to pour an unknown chemical substance on him and wrap a rope around his neck.
After the appalling incident, the Empire star went to the hospital and has since been released in “good condition.” Many prominent figures, including Senator Kamala Harris and Lee Daniels, the co-creator of Empire, felt compelled to post their thoughts on the attack on social media, with Daniels posting a video on Instagram telling Smollett that he didn’t deserve to “have a noose put around [his] neck.” The Chicago Police Department said in a statement that they are “taking this investigation very seriously” and “treating [the incident] as a possible hate crime.” Senator Cory Booker even deemed the attack an “attempted modern-day lynching” and pushed the House to consider passing a bill that would make lynching a federal crime.
This unforgivable crime highlights the discrimination against queer people of color. These people are the minorities of both the black and LGBTQ+ communities, and they face more oppression as a result. Unlike Smollett’s case, most attacks on members of this group of people don’t make national news, which begs the question: If the person attacked wasn’t as famous as Jussie Smollett, would the incident still have made headlines? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not. The struggles of the black LGBTQ+ community Smollett is a part of have been sidelined for far too long, and it is shameful that they are coming to light just this year. Let’s hope this is the year that queer people of color are treated fairly instead of being discriminated against, and if not, then all we can do is raise more awareness about this community and their struggles.