I’ve been trying to figure out how to address the recent events that took place in Chicago, and I’ve been struggling to filter out my thoughts. Part of my struggle comes from knowing that Jussie is me and I’m Jussie. Strip away his fame and celebrity, and we are both Black Gay men living in the United States. I keep thinking it could have easily been me that was attacked.
Another part of my struggle comes from being angry about the situation, and not knowing how to write about my feelings in a meaningful way. This is a tough topic to navigate. While I’m not sure if I’ve been able to truly sort out of all of my thoughts in a manner that doesn’t sound like word vomit, I’ve managed to write something. So please, bear with me.
Black and Gay in America
To be a Black man in America is both a blessing a “burden.” While most Black men will agree to loving the glow of their melanin, the unique tone of their voice, and the overall swag of their being, they will also admit that their blackness doesn’t come without a cost. That in this country, being a Black man is like walking around on eggshells almost daily. Black men must be careful to navigate the traps of the justice system, the holes in the health system, and the meticulously structured dynamics between their white peers. And even if a Black man is able to do all this, he still has a target on his back.
Now just imagine being a Black gay man. As someone who is just that, I can tell you that it’s even harder. Black gay men have the task of doing everything already mentioned, in addition to dealing with the homophobic attitudes from those outside and in our own racial community. It’s a painful thing to be told you’re too Black by some, and too queer by others. In essence, being Black and gay means you walk around with dual targets. None of it’s fair, but it’s just what it is.
I say all that above to get to the recent story about Jussie’s attack. To be targeted not only for my skin color, but for who I choose to sleep with as well, is a reality I hope to never face. And I can’t even try to fathom which justification for such a beating is worse.
On one hand, one of my greatest when I accepted that I was gay was to be gay-bashed. I used to think about how I could be leaving a gay bar or gay club one day, and be blindsided by some evil force that was waiting to attack me. I wasn’t ignorant to what happened to people like Matthew Sheppard, and I had this anxiety that perhaps it could happen to me.
On the other hand, one of the many things I struggle with in trying to process what happened to Jussie, is the fact the assailants put a noose around his neck. A damn noose. It makes me sick thinking such a disgusting symbol of hatred and bigotry was placed on his body. I imagine Jussie was probably horrified to think that in the moment, he could have been publicly lynched like so many Black men before him. That he would die and be memorialized in the vain of Emmett Till and the thousands of men killed because of race.
Perhaps me even trying to decide which is worse is a moot point, because at the end of the day, a person was attacked for just being him. Attacked in country that prides itself as being the pillar of democracy and the diversity capital of the world.
Who’s to Blame?
In terms of blame, my spirit won’t allow me to place it all on Trump. Hatred has existed in this country long before 45, and will be here long after he’s impeached and prosecuted. Has his rhetoric allowed the ignorant and hate-filled of America to feel more embolden to speak their mind and carry out attacks, perhaps. But unfortunately, people were wearing hoods and sheets decades and centuries before they were wearing MAGA gear, and carrying out the same type of vicious attacks. Just to be clear, Trump can accept some responsibility for perhaps emboldening people, but an attack like this could have easily happened if there was a different 45 in the White House.
My next argument may sound crazy and offensive to some, but I must say it. When so many in the Black heterosexual community refuse to embrace the Black LGBT community, those individuals send a message to the world that “We” don’t matter. That queer Black lives are somehow expendable because they aren’t the “right kind of Black anyway.”
Think of it like this. Imagine two brothers (as in siblings) walking side by side down the street and it’s raining hard outside. I’m talking a full downpour. One of the brother’s has a huge umbrella and finds himself covered from the elements. The other brother is not so fortunate, as he doesn’t have anything to shield himself from the rain. And despite there being room under the one brother’s umbrella, he refuses to share his covering with his sibling, leaving the other brother to get wet.
What I’m trying to say is, every time heterosexual Black people refuse to embrace their queer brethren, they further leave us exposed to the hate that exists in the world. Yes, being accepted as full member of the Black community won’t protect queer men and women from all the hatred in the world; but boy does that hatred feel less painful when you know you have the love of your own covering and supporting you. Plus, justice moves more swiftly when there’s a movement behind you. Heck, such covering may even deter some attackers from striking if they know the victim isn’t in the rain by himself.
To be fair, there are quite a few Black heterosexuals (predominantly Black women) that do embrace their gay and lesbian counterparts. I see the outpouring of love toward Jussie and that point is confirmed. But, there are also a ton of straight folks of color who do not want anything to do with people like me.
Last Notes of Frustration
I wish people would stop claiming that what happened to Jussie is some kind of hoax. As if he conjured everything up to make some kind of point about Trump supporters. While I hoped the stupid comments were some Russian bots or something, these are real people making these ridiculous “hoax” claims.
Who in their right mind would go to the trouble of pouring bleach on themselves and sustaining his level of bruising? And I don’t care what anyone says, most Black men are nowhere near comfortable joking around with a noose on their neck. Heck, I’m uncomfortable even talking about a noose.