Latin Reacts to Jussie Smollett’s Attack

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I’deyah Ricketts On Tuesday, January 29, Jussie Smollett was allegedly attacked in a hate crime. Smollett plays Jamal Lyon, an R&B singer and songwriter, on Fox’s Empire. Jamal openly identifies as gay, as does Smollett. Reportedly, two white men approached Smollett around 2 a.m. as he returned from Subway. The strangers accosted Smollett, yelling, “Aren’t you that fa***t Empire n***er?” The masked men continued to hurl racial and homophobic slurs at Smollett while putting a noose around his neck. In a statement released by the Chicago Police Department, the suspects also “poured an unknown liquid” on Jussie. Near the scene, a half-empty hot sauce bottle smelling of bleach was found by New York Post reporters. CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi stated that, “It’s unclear if [the bottle] is related to the incident as it was not discovered during any of the earlier canvasses but we took it for analysis.” Allegedly, the suspects also yelled “This is MAGA country” after the attack, referencing Trump’s slogan. After reportedly fighting off his attackers, Smollett admitted himself into Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The cuts on his face and neck were treated along with his bruised ribs. After his release, Smollett performed at a scheduled concert on Saturday, saying, “I’m not fully healed yet, but I’m going to [be], and I’m gonna stand strong with y’all. I will always stand for love. I will only stand for love.” Chicago Police “reviewed hundreds of hours of video” as they expanded their search for the men. Surveillance cameras showed “potential persons of interest” whom the CPD wanted for questioning, but they were unidentifiable at the time. Police scoured the Streeterville neighborhood (where the attack occurred) and along the riverfront for footage. Guglielmi hoped to release a public description of the offenders as soon as possible. Smollett turned in his phone records, but also wanted to preserve the privacy of his contacts. The records “were limited and heavily redacted” and did “not meet the burden for a criminal investigation.” So, in light of the alleged attack, did the Latin community’s perceptions of safety shifted? Junior Briannah K. Cook feels that “[the attack] didn’t change my perception of safety since I’ve always been hyper-aware of my surroundings, especially as a female in Chicago. I was more surprised that a lot of the people who were questioning [Smollett’s] story were black.” In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Smollett expressed his dissatisfaction with those who doubt his account. It’s the “attacker, but it’s also the attacks,” Smollett said. Briannah said, “In the same way that we should take women’s sexual assault allegations seriously, we should take racially charged attacks seriously, especially when they come from people of our own community, The public’s reaction highlights the division between heterosexual and LGBTQ black people; the LGBTQ community is seen as lesser than or ostracized for who they are.” The FBI also investigated a letter sent to Fox studios in Chicago. The hate mail, received 8 days before the alleged attack, read “You will die black f**” in cut out letters and was addressed to ‘Jussie Smollett, Empire’. Junior Lindley McCutcheon, recognizes the fear behind the letter and the attack. “I’ve realized why celebrities or influencers are hesitant to come out and be honest about their identity. This attack was a step back since it shows that we, the citizens of Chicago, aren’t as progressive as we think we are.” The envelope encasing the letter read ‘MAGA,’ and inside, it contained a white powder determined to be aspirin. The Empire actor received love and support from colleagues and co stars: Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Lee Daniels, and more. His picture has flooded Instagram and other social media platforms as people reach out, sending their condolences. But similar to Briannah, Lindley feels that “this attack didn’t change my opinion of safety in my community because I’m fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood with a low crime rate.” Jacksyn Sallay agrees that “I don’t feel any less safe back home or around Latin. It just shocked me.” While Latin’s fear may not be shaken by the news of the attack, new evidence suggesting that Smollett orchestrated the attack has taken the public by storm. Two men, brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo, were arrested in connection with the assault. A joint statement they issued read, “We are not racist. We are not homophobic, and we are not anti-Trump. We were born and raised in Chicago and are American citizens.” Reports on Smollett knowing the brothers prior to the attack and paying them off to carry out the assault have “shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” The case could be headed towards a grand jury as detectives are eager to interview Smollett again. If you’re experiencing anti-LGBTQ hate violence in the Chicago area, reach out to local NCAVP partner Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project at (773) 472-6469]]>