This is why Kevin Hart’s gay jokes were never funny.
Tuesday morning, Empire actor and prominent LGBTQ+ figure Jussie Smollet was approached by two unknown men who, upon recognizing him, berated him with racist and homophobic slurs, assaulted him and left him covered in an unknown chemical substance with a rope tied around his neck.
While the identities of the assailants are still unclear, they made very clear on whose behalf this attack was carried out, shouting, “This is MAGA country!” as they left the scene.
The image of a brutalized Black man left with a rope around his neck is a startling anachronism, reminiscent of the lynchings present in the American South until the 1960s. This is particularly disheartening for those of us whose grandparents were victims of this violent, racist scare-tactic, only to find ourselves once again under the gaze of Jim Crow in Trump’s America.
Though brutal, this attack was not in isolation, and Smollet was fortunate to escape with his life. Since Trump’s election in 2016, there has been a spike in hate crimes. In 2017, the Anti-Violence Project reported 52 hate-related homicides, an 86 percent increase from 2016. Of those, 71 percent were people of color, emphasizing the danger of being Black and queer in “MAGA country”.