Jussie Smollett’s devastating experience has taken social media by storm, and for good reason.
Thirty-five-year-old 'Empire' Star Smollett, who came out as gay in 2015, was attacked by two men on his way home from an early morning run to Subway.
According to CNN, Smollett reported that "His attackers physically assaulted him and called him homophobic and racial slurs," and “that one of his attackers put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown substance on him.” Given the context of the incident, police have begun investigating it as a hate crime, and many others agree.
I, for one, had never followed Jussie Smollett in the media, but I couldn’t release myself from the impact this story had on me. As someone who has heard that racism and homophobia still exist today, but had never been personally affected by it, I wanted it to be false. I wanted to believe that the world is a lot more accepting than it used to be. While it is, this story has shown that society still has quite a long way to go in regard to acceptance. It doesn’t stop at this incident, either.
According to USA Today, “In 2018, a black supervisor at a GM plant in Ohio reported five nooses hung in his work area over several months. One of his white staffers told him, ‘back in the day, you would have been buried with a shovel.’” During the same year, “a man in Riverside, California, was videotaped hanging a noose on the fence between his house and the house of a mixed-race couple.”
As isolated as these incidents are, they prove that intimidation through referencing racist practices (such as lynching) are still prevalent and may not be able to be totally eradicated. As an African-American myself, this is terrifying. But the fact that horrendous shows of prejudice still affect the LGBTQ community doubles it. When faced with tragedies like this, it has become easy for society to start facing it by pointing fingers at a specific group of people. I don’t feel that this helps, and it only creates a greater divide. We have to be willing to come together, even with people who are very different from us, and talk about the fact that this is still happening.
Be open to the people who either aren’t sure how to talk about these issues, or who don’t understand the enormity of them. The more we give the side-eye to or scoff at people who don’t understand, the more potential there is to perpetuate the issue.
We then need to be willing to call out any shows of prejudices we may see, starting here on campus. If you ever feel discriminated against for any reason, or feel that anyone else is being discriminated against, call Dr. Hollie Smith, deputy Title IX Coordinator, in the SFA Office of the Dean of Student Affairs at (936) 468-7249.