To Be Gay, Gifted and Black
By Lyric Ashani
It has been 55 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed to ensure the protection of minorities in America. Unfortunately, this legislation didn’t include the LGBTQ community. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. This law was passed to allow for the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. This may sound like a history lesson but unfortunately hate crimes happen more often than not and even still in 2019.
Now, imagine actually being a black, openly gay man who not only battles daily with the racial stigma, but may also be ostracized in his own community due to his sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It’s no secret that homosexuality in the black community is a taboo subject even today. The recent alleged attack on Empire star, Jussie Smollett, has brought this specific issue to a head. Black America has never been so torn on which aspect of the attack to feel more enraged by. So, let’s break down all the aspects of this attack. During the early morning hours on Tuesday January 29, 2019, Mr. Smollett allegedly endured racial and homophobic slurs, a rope being wrapped around his neck, and an unknown substance, presumed to be bleach, was poured on him.
Every aspect of this crime is shocking by itself. The story was reported on all news outlets as well as social media which quickly caused it to become viral. Social media has provided a place where most people give their opinions and don’t have to be held accountable for what they said. Black America along with the rest of America chimed in on this unspeakable crime. Where the disconnect lies, is the fact that some people only wanted to feel outraged by the racial aspects of the crime meaning the slurs, the rope around the neck and the bleach. All three of these things are issues that are very relevant to the black community. Racial slurs have been a commonality since slavery. Lynching is a major part of black history, even as recent as 2018. There’s also an epidemic of dark skin black people bleaching their skin to appear lighter.
When it came to Mr. Smollett’s sexual orientation, that’s when homosexual discrimination reared its ugly head. Comments were made regarding the hour at which Mr. Smollett went out, around 2 a.m., to get a sandwich. Some suggest that he must have been on his way to a sexual rendezvous that went wrong. What’s disturbing about this is that regardless of what he was out doing, no one has the right to attack another individual. Especially, when the attack was unwarranted. Other comments were made that people believe that this is a publicity stunt to gear up for the new season of Empire. One of the most disturbing comments was stated, “Well it’s not because he was gay that I’m upset, it’s because they poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck and made racial slurs. That’s when it became a black problem.” The lack of humanity in that comment is what’s most disturbing in my opinion.
Regardless of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, race or religious belief, no one has the right to verbally and/or physically attack them. Black America needs to understand that we are side by side and hand-in-hand with all of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. We have all been discriminated against based off of something as simple as the color of our skin as well as the complexity of one sexual orientation. America, overall, has been outraged by this attack that happened to a very promising actor and artist. Black America has to learn to stop being divided in our support of another brother who is attacked. Race relations in America is going to be a battle that we’ve been fighting and will continue to fight for years to come. So why break down a man who has already been beat down in society? Regardless of how successful he is in his TV show, when he’s on the street, walking home to enjoy a meal, he is still just another black man who can be attacked. A black man, who just happens to be gay.