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”.
Queer people are dying. Trans folks are dying. Americans are dying. All at higher rates if you aren’t white.
Trump’s lack of response to this incident, and failure to address any of these trends is disgusting. That’s all the airtime I’ll give him here, as it’s more than he’s given Smollet since Tuesday.
It’s astonishing how conservative MAGA supporters can recognize the totemic value of the American flag and levy its importance against Black NFL players, yet cannot seem to see that they are weaponizing another symbol--bright-red hats--against queer people of color.
The flag is not just a flag, as the hat is not just a hat.
While debates about what exactly “Make America Great Again” means, what's important is that the impact is severe regardless of the intentions.
Ideally this article would end with a call directed at MAGA supporters, however, I fear they may not be reading this in the numbers that those who are ‘allies’ are, so instead I’ll direct my call at you. We don’t need more allies, we need more accomplices.
In these times it is no longer enough to stand on the sidelines; it’s time to get in the game, to implicate yourselves in the violence, to go with queer POC into the fight and then drive the getaway car. Leverage the amicable relationships that many of you maintain with MAGA crowds to advocate for those who are excluded, often violently, from those spaces. Anything less will yield little progress.
If you are not willing to put yourself at risk, your guilt may be a compelling reason to make a donation to those organizations that are in the trenches.
I will continue to make myself hyper-visible in MAGA country, as many LGBTQ+ folks and people of color are doing every day, as it is my proud obligation. I say this for neither pity nor praise, but rather to ask what are you doing as our accomplice? How are you implicating yourself in this violence?
If you are not actively speaking and acting out against MAGA-sponsored violence, you need to seriously reconsider your role in its reproduction as a silent moderate.
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