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The intersection of racism and homophobia in the Jussie Smollett attack has been underplayed

Call racism, homophobia, and hate crimes what they are.


Samira Sadeque


Posted on Jan 30, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 8:21 pm CDT

The internet—and most of America—is reeling from the attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett. The details of the assault that took place in Chicago early Tuesday morning have since emerged and are harrowing: Smollett said two white men in ski masks poured what smelled like bleach on him and tied a noose around his neck screaming, “This is MAGA country.”

According to TMZ, his attackers also screamed, “Aren’t you that f—-t ‘Empire’ n—–r?” after he was leaving a local subway in Chicago. Some worry this attack may have been premeditated—as ABC News reported that Smollett received a hate note in the mail a week prior to the attack. 

Tuesday’s attack sent ripples across many communities who identify with Smollett—a Black, queer person. It’s an intersection that often doesn’t get much space when we talk about discrimination.

Many pointed out that identifying the attack on only one or his other identity ignores the intersectional identities that were attacked.

Smollet is also Jewish, and the Jewish community on Twitter has rallied in support for him since the attack.

Proof that we still don’t know how to talk about racism and homophobia in America: The media—and Chicago Police Department—terming the attack as a “racially-charged” “possible” hate crime.

And the media continued to disappoint on that front.

For an attack in which the perpetrators used expletives specifically against the Black community (the n-word) and the gay community (the f-word), not to mention a noose and possibly bleach, people were justifiably infuriated that the attack wasn’t described for what it was—racist and homophobic.

Anthony Guglielmi, the Chicago PD chief communications officer who tweeted about the department investigating the “possible” hate crime, told the Daily Dot in an email that the crime “is being investigated as a hate crime based on the narrative provided by the victim and the racial and homophobic language used during the assault. We continue to investigate the allegations and look for any evidence that could help us lead to the identity of an offender.”

In Illinois, a person committing “assault, battery, aggravated assault,” among other forms of abuse and/or harassment against another person due to their “actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin” classifies as hate crime and is a criminal offense.

Seems pretty cut and dry. 

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*First Published: Jan 30, 2019, 9:26 am CST