The news ripped across social feeds like a tsunami. Did you hear what happened to #JussieSmollett?
Smollet, the charismatic 36-year-old singer, dancer, actor, photographer and star of Fox’s hit television show Empire, had arrived in Chicago late Monday and was out grabbing some food around 2 A.M. on Tuesday when he was allegedly attacked.
Two “unknown offenders approached him and gained his attention by yelling out racial and homophobic slurs towards him,” according to a statement from the Chicago Police Department. “The offenders began to batter the victim with their hands about the face and poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim.” And then this. “At some point during the incident, one of the offenders wrapped a rope around the victim’s neck. The offenders fled the scene.”
The story, as first reported by TMZ, contains some horrific details. The two white men wore ski masks. Someone shouted to him as he walked, “Aren’t you that faggot ‘Empire’ nigger?” And, as they beat him and hung the rope around his neck, he was told, “This is MAGA country.”
To make matters worse, it now sounds like he’s being targeted. A threatening letter was sent to the Fox studio in Chicago a week before the attack, which included similar language. The FBI is now investigating that threat, according to the police.
Smollett was able to get himself to the hospital, and the incident is being investigated as a hate crime, says the Chicago Police Department.
But the leaked details of the alleged attack have triggered an important conversation about hate, terrorism, and the complex identities of victims.
Smollet, who is beloved for his spirit, talent and activism, is black and gay.
Preston D. Mitchum, is also many things, a Black and queer civil rights advocate, writer, lawyer, and policy analyst at the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). He recently published a column on Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ+ channel, which addresses these painful issues of intersectionality and hate.
He begins by recalling the Shepard-Byrd Act, the 2009 legislation, signed into law by then-President Obama, which officially made it a federal crime to assault an individual because of their actual or perceived gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The bill is named for two hate crime victims: James Byrd, a black man who was dragged by white supremacists behind a truck to his death in Texas, and Matthew Shepard, a white gay man tortured, beaten and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming. Both occurred in 1998.
But chances are, he says, most people have only heard of Shepard.
“The murders of Byrd and Shepard rightfully brought national and international attention to the lack of hate crime legislation at local, state, and federal levels,” he writes. “Civil rights organizations and community responses helped create a necessary call to action about the marginalization and violence against LGBTQ people or black people. But that call rarely, if ever, considered the intersectional nature of identity, the fact that some of us are black and queer. And that oversight has profound consequences for people like me.”
And now, Smollett.
Mitchum correctly notes that black LGBTQ people experience higher rates of violence than their white counterparts, and studies of hate crimes often focus on race or LGBTQ identity, which leaves an entire population unsupported. And despite the Shepard-Byrd Act, hate crimes are nearly impossible to prosecute.
It’s important, he says, to do this work.
“Contrary to mainstream depictions of black LGBTQ people (if we’re ever depicted at all), our identities are not distinct,” he says. “Our full lives have value and must always be celebrated. We don’t have to strip ourselves of our black identities or our queer identities to be remembered. Yet society attempts to reduce us to one or the other in how we live and in how we die.”
|Can Ludacris save Harley Davidson?|
|Harley-Davidson missed its earnings expectations by a wide margin yesterday, sending stocks tumbling some 8 percent in the pre-market and triggering a spate of uneasy rider jokes. The blame lies in part with President Trump’s trade war, but tariffs aren’t the only issue. It’s also the aging of the company’s demographic and the company’s struggle to attract younger fans. But on the same earnings call, CEO Matthew Levatich said he had found hope online. “We drove relevance and interest through our activations with celebrities and social media influencers, whose content and activity generated equivalent traditional media value that was up 80%,” he said, citing year over year numbers. That included launching new 2018 bikes with an Instagram event featuring Aquaman star Jason Momoa, country musician Brantley Gilbert, and rapper/actor Ludacris. Word of mouf, ftw.|
|Kentucky’s black voter problem|
|Kentucky is one of three states that have a lifetime ban on voting for most former felons. As a result, one in four black citizens has lost their right to vote, the highest in the country. More than 312,000 people in Kentucky are currently barred from the ballot, which is one out of every 11 adults. By comparison, one in 40 people have lost their ballot access nationwide, and 9% of those are African Americans. In 2016, their legislature passed a bill allowing certain convictions to be expunged, but the $500 fee, one of the highest in the nation, makes it out of reach for many former felons. The analysis was released by the Kentucky League of Women Voters, who are advocating for the kinds of changes that have happened elsewhere. We have watched very closely Virginia, Florida, and Iowa… It’s very lonely and… we’re missing a real opportunity to do something good,” says one League member.|
|An elite law firm posts a photo of their latest partner class, the world shakes their damn heads|
|Last December, Paul, Weiss, described as an elite and profitable law firm, posted a photo of their new partner class on LinkedIn: Eleven men, one woman, all white. What followed was an industry-wide “conversation” about diversity in law. One legal publication mocked them for their “commitment to putting the white in white shoe.” Then, some 170 corporate lawyers, led by Turo’s Chief Legal Officer Michelle Fang, published an open letter to law firm partners to do better or lose business. “We expect the outside law firms we retain to reflect the diversity of the legal community and the companies and the customers we serve.”|
|New York Times|
|Poverty is increasing for women and people of color in Montgomery County, Md|
|A new report called, A Tale of Two Counties: The Status of Women in Montgomery County (2018), shows that women are increasingly struggling when compared to their male counterparts, with alarming disparities in wealth and health along racial and ethnic lines. Diana Rubin of the Montgomery County Commission for Women said the findings were shocking. “The people who are most likely to be in poverty are female, are single mothers in their 20s and women over the age of 60,” she said. “And Hispanic and African American girls and women are three to four times more likely to live in poverty than white women.” The County is 52% women, 56% of women are ethnic “minorities” and 40% of adult women are immigrants.|
|Seattle residents have surprising things to say about race|
|The Seattle Times invited 18 very different people to speak candidly on video about what it’s like to live in their skin in Seattle. Structured like a word association exercise — what does ally, white fragility, microaggression mean to you? – the participants had strong things to say about the persistent and subtle bias that is part of their daily lives in what is usually considered an inclusive city. The video snippets feel like a mini-documentary married a diversity training module.|
|How fly-tying and fly-fishing brought peace to a troubled combat veteran|
|Many of y’all know how much I love fly-fishing. But this short video is not about trout glamour shots. It’s the poignant tale of U.S Army Master Sergeant Son Tao, who came to the U.S. with his family as a young boy. His family had spent three years in a refugee camp after they fled South Vietnam in the mid-’70s, and after knocking on many doors, were finally granted asylum in the U.S. He thrived in school and grew up to find a lucrative gig as an electrical engineer. But the 9/11 attacks compelled him to enlist in the infantry to repay the debt his family felt they owed their adopted country. Son deployed six times to combat zones. Two purple hearts and eleven surgeries later, he was wracked with PTSD. “A lot of these demons build up in side of you,” he said. And then… well, I’ll let you find out the rest. Bring tissues and please share.|
|Arkansas Fish and Game on YouTube|
|The Cleveland Museum of Art has digitized its collection for you|
|Well, about half of it, but it’s a real treasure trove. There are now more than 30,000 works online, ready to share, meme, remix and enjoy for commercial and non-commercial purposes. Whatever you want! “Brace yourself for some meme-worthy Egyptian cats and gif-able Renaissance babies,” says Hyperallergic’s Zachary Small. The museum is making the images public through a partnership with Creative Commons Zero (CC0), a nonprofit that aids in the distribution of copyrighted images. Metadata from 61,000 images from the museum are also now available for research purposes, too. “If we are committed to transparency, to fostering creativity, to engaging communities within and far beyond our region,” wrote CMA’s director in a Medium post, “then there is almost nothing we can do that would have greater impact.” It’s a growing trend, reports Hyperallergic.|