Kris Wise MSW, LCSW
If you have ever watched an episode of the television series “Empire”, you probably recognize the image of Jussie Smollett, or remember his smooth vocal performances. He is talented, philanthropic, and since 2015 an openly gay man of color in America. Smollett was this week’s victim of violence in the LGBTQ+ community.
The Chicago Police Department is investigating the incident as “a possible hate crime.” The police report details two unknown offenders approached him yelling racial and homophobic slurs. They began to beat him with their hands, poured an unknown chemical on him, and wrapped a rope around his neck.
They put a rope around his neck. A noose. Are you hearing me?
I realize the political waters are very polarized when it comes to the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. There isn’t a day that goes by in America that doesn’t give note of recent attacks and further marginalization of the LGBTQ+ community. Here are some examples:
Evangelicals sue for the right to deny shelter to homeless transgender people
Gay people can’t get restraining orders against their partners in North Carolina
Mike Pence’s wife works for a school that bans LGBTQ people
Trump’s Attorney General nominee defends his support for religious ‘right’ to discriminate
South Dakota becomes the first state to attack LGBTQ children in 2019
Gay inmate dies of suicide after jail officials allegedly join inmates in month of nonstop torment
A teen was ‘suicidal’ after having sex with a trans woman. Now he’s charged with her murder
All of these headlines have occurred in 2019, and I know there will be more that will follow. Whenever violence like this occurs, I think of the moment I met Mathew Shepherd’s mother. Judy, like so many mothers adored her son. I could feel the pain in her eyes as she shook my hand, and I felt I might fall over from her humble grace. All I could manage to say repeatedly was ‘thank you’. Tonight, I think of my mother, my family, and my tribe, as I know there are times they worry about my safety. I think of those who do not have someone to worry about them. I am again reminded of the wisdom of Dr. Cornel West’s statement “Justice is what love looks like in public”.
I know the wheels of progress will continue to turn, and I will continue to do my part. I just have a couple of questions for you. Could you at least agree to stop killing us? Could you agree violence against us is not okay? Could you notice the nearly 30 trans women of color are murdered yearly in America?
The words of Cookie Lyon a character of the “Empire” series has proven true. “Listen to me. You different. OK? It’s only something mama knows, but it’s gonna make life hard for you sometimes. But I want you to always remember I got you.”
Until it stops, I got you.