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Smollett’s Attack

The big gay story last week was the attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett.  I was kinda shocked at the reaction.  First, some of my dearest childhood friends questioned if the attack really took place, or if Jussie was simply looking for publicity.  “Something doesn’t ring true,” one said on Facebook.  Yeah, because if I were looking for publicity, I’d tie a noose around my neck and douse myself in bleach!  Then someone pointed out to me the social media posts by organizations that used this attack as an opportunity to promote themselves.  Shameful.

As of the writing of this column, here’s what we know.  On the evening of Monday, January 28th, Jussie had flown from New York to Chicago – where Empire shoots and where Smollett has an apartment.  Around 2AM, he was hungry and went to a 24-hour Subway (and, if I might inject a bit of levity into this difficult story, let me note that nothing good happens at a Subway at 2AM).  When he left the Subway (presumably with his sub), two white men wearing ski masks approached him and yelled out, “Aren’t you that faggot Empire nigger?”  They then attacked Jussie, put a rope around his neck, and poured bleach on him, saying “This is MAGA country” as they ran away.  After reporting the crime to the police, Jussie got himself to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was treated for a fractured rib.  A couple of days later, Chicago Police released a photo of “persons of interest” that shows two men on a neighboring street around the time of the attack.

I will admit, all of this raises several questions – who is walking around Chicago at 2AM with a noose and bleach?  There is speculation that Smollett was targeted, as he had earlier received a letter which was sent to the Empire set and threatened, “You will die black fag,” with a return address that simply said “MAGA”.  Also, a woman who lives in Smollett’s building says that when she took her dog out to pee at 12:30AM, she saw a suspicious man lingering.  On the flip side, Smollett says that at the time of the attack, he was talking to his manager on his cell phone.  So, the police asked to examine the phone – Jussie declined.  Police say he was not obligated to share the handset or phone records.  And, frankly, as a gay man, I don’t think I’d want the fuzz looking into the bowels of my mobile, either.

BTW, Smollett had a concert scheduled for February 2nd at the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood.  Despite some concerns, the concert took place, although the scheduled meet-and-greet was cancelled.  “I’m not fully healed yet, but I’m going to and I’m going to stand strong with you all,” Jussie told the capacity crowd.  “I had to be here tonight.  I couldn’t let those motherfuckers win!  So I will also stand for love, I will never stand for anything other than that.  Regardless of what anyone else says, I will only stand for love and I hope you will all stand with me.”

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One of the people speaking out on Smollett’s behalf has been Empire creator Lee Daniels.  “It’s taken me a minute to come to social media about this because, Jussie, you are my son.  You didn’t deserve nor anybody deserves to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called ‘die faggot nigga’ or whatever they said to you. You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home. It starts at home, yo. We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are because it shows we are united on a united front and no racist f— can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie. I’m with you. I’ll be there in a minute. It’s just another fucking day in America.”

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