The precipitating violence and hate rhetoric that American history holds withstanding came to surface once again on the cuffs of Black History Month. On Tuesday, January 29th, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was attacked by two men as they yelled out racial and homophobic slurs at the actor. Smollett, who is openly gay, was heading home at 2 a.m. when the men attacked. They poured an unknown substance on him and tied a noose around his neck before fleeing. The two men were masked, says Smollett, and also yelled, “This is MAGA country” before they fled. The Chicago Police are treating the attack as a possible hate crime.
On Friday, February 1st, the actor made his first public statement to Essence Magazine about the attack:
“Let me start by saying that I’m O.K”, Smollett said in the statement addressed to ‘the beautiful people’, “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.”
The FBI was already investigating a threatening letter sent to the Empire offices just days before the attack. The letter reportedly contained white power, a substance authorities suspected to be aspirin.
Police arrived 30-40 minutes after the attack took place. When they arrived at Smollett’s apartment, there was a, “thin, light rope” still around his neck, said Anthony Gugliemi, the Chicago Police spokesman. Police are in possession of the rope and sweater Smollett was wearing and are determining the nature of the substance poured on Smollett.
After the attack, detectives reviewed surveillance footage of the area around the reported time of the attack, identifying and releasing photos of two “potential persons of interest”, Chicago Police reported. The men are wanted for questioning.
The attack is another example of how the hate rhetoric the current administration perpetuates trickles down into actual acts of violence. Although President Trump went on record saying the attack was “horrible”, he continues to do nothing to denounce the racism and bigotry that his base famously holds on to. In addition, Conservative media outlets were quick to announce their skepticism of Smollett’s attack, questioning why he didn’t call the police immediately after the attack.
Smollett addressed these skepticisms in his statement to Essence, stating that he is “working with authorities and has been 100% factual and consistent on every level.” Smollett added, “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served.”
By Ryan Nickerson
Photo: © VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images Jussie Smollett