Jussie Smollett may have been beaten, but he is by no means broken.
Earlier this week, but what seems like a lifetime ago, actor Jussie Smollett was assaulted by two white men around 2 a.m in Chicago on his way to get food. According to the police records, the two men beat him, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. They referred to him as that “faggot” from Empire “nigger” before attacking him.
In an exclusive statement with Essence released today, Smollett said the following concerning his attack and the aftermath:
“Let me start by saying that I’m OK. My body is strong but my soul is stronger. More importantly I want to say thank you. The outpouring of love and support from my village has meant more than I will ever be able to truly put into words. I am working with authorities and have been 100% factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.
“As my family stated, 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. We will talk soon and I will address all details of this horrific incident, but I need a moment to process. Most importantly, during times of trauma, grief and pain, there is still a responsibility to lead with love. It’s all I know. And that can’t be kicked out of me.”
“With Love, respect & honor…Jussie.”
Jussie Smollett’s statement summarizes all of the light that exists within him and what those evil bastards tried to snuff out. I am glad he is taking the time to heal and take care of himself so that he can use this moment to be a leader. That is not his responsibility, but it is clear that he wants to use this moment to shed a light on not just his assault, but the murders and assaults that many queer people of color, especially Black trans women and non-binary people, face in this country.
While the authorities are still investigating the incident, I just want to say to all those people who would rather believe that Smollett made up what happened than accept that there is endemic racism and homophobia in this country, please go fuck yourselves.
In my previous piece, I put the catalyst for this on Trump’s doorstep, but that was a mistake. It belongs on the doorsteps of Trump and Mike Pence. Mike Pence with his faux-sangfroid nature that makes people think he is “presidential” or even more hilariously an “adult.” Anyone who believes this and supports Pence needs to bear part of the responsibility for being a part of the anti-LGBTQ aspects of this administration and attempting to normalize it through the shroud of religious freedom.
As Ellen Page said in her interview with Stephen Colbert last night:
“The vice president of America wishes I didn’t have the love with my wife. He wanted to ban that in Indiana. He believes in conversion therapy. He has hurt LGBTQ people so badly as the governor of Indiana. And I think the thing we need to know—and I hope my show Gaycation did this—is in terms of connecting the dots, in terms of what happened the other day to Jussie. I don’t know him personally. I send all of my love.
Connect the dots.
This is what happens. 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? Kids are going to be abused. And they’re going to kill themselves. And people are going to be beaten on the street.”
They may not have originated the atmosphere of hate we live in, but they have been key to normalizing it and perpetuating this “both sides” mentality that has been adopted by the media to seem fair, instead of calling these actions hateful when they clearly are.
We know what happened to Jussie Smollett because he is a star, he is a public person, and because of that, he may have more accessibility to justice than most. But we would be failing Smollett and other people if we act as though what happened to him is a one-off. To have justice for Jussie Smollett means getting justice for Black and queer people everywhere—and to fight back against the mentality that tells us that calling out the reality of what it is to be Black and openly gay in spaces is being too sensitive.
(via Essence, image: Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)
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