Content Disclosure: hate crime, racism, homophobia
Last night, Jussie Smollett was the target of a hate crime here in Chicago. This attack was perpetrated by multiple assailants who hurled violent racist and homophobic slurs at him as they poured a chemical – possibly bleach – on him and tied a rope around his neck. The Chicago Police Department has begun an investigation regarding this attack.
At Howard Brown Health, from #metoo to #muterkelly to this very moment, we believe survivors and value their words. While media and investigators must defer to the presumption of innocence when discussing potential charges that may result from this assault, qualifying words such as “alleged” or “possible crime” can serve to discredit those who speak up about violence they experience.
Hate crimes like this are not one-off occurrences. Years of microaggressions, documented difficulty and reticence in charging hate crimes, and the historical devaluation of queer Black people have laid the foundation upon which violence like this is built. This attack was not because Jussie Smollett is gay or is Black – it was because he is both gay and Black. This extreme violence was perpetrated on the grounds of both race and sexual orientation and tragically illustrates the very real multiple jeopardy that queer and trans people of color face. We can never separate our identities as people of color and queer.
Howard Brown stands in support of Jussie Smollett. His work as an actor, singer, and vocal advocate for both the LGBTQ+ community and people living with HIV has inspired our community time and again. In March of 2017, Jussie, along with his Empire co-star Taraji P. Henson, visited our young clients at Broadway Youth Center. He inspired us to stay true to what we believe in and uplifted our spirits. Now, it is our turn to uplift and advocate for him.
Though our community regularly faces disproportionate levels of violence, acts like this are still painful, damaging, and disturbing. We often reach out, check in, and speak up because we feel a direct connection to what is happening. In moments like this, one of the most validating and supportive things we can do for each other is to honor and center the person who is harmed, including following their lead on what resources they need. If you, or someone you know, needs to speak to someone, we encourage you to connect with and tap into your community in any way you can.
For more information about Howard Brown’s mental wellness services, please call 773.388.1600 or go to howardbrown.org for more information.