Will there ever be a safe haven for black LGBTQ+ people?

On the 29th of January at around 7:20pm it was reported that Empire star, Jussie Smollett had been the victim of a MAGA hate crime in the early hours of Tuesday morning by various media outlets including CNN and TMZ.

Attackers were said to have shouted racial and homophobic slurs at the actor while pouring an unknown chemical substance over him and wrapping a rope around his neck before fleeing on the streets of Chicago. Media outlets initially attempted to deny the attack was due to race and sexuality . They were eventually forced to revise reports when it was clear the attackers were supporters of MAGA.

When Trump was asked about the attack he did not address that the attackers were supporters of his, but simply stated “That I can tell you it is horrible. I’ve seen it. Last night. It’s horrible. Doesn’t get worse.” and went on to make connections towards immigration and the wall plans along the Mexican border.

Although it can be said to be disrespectful to turn Smollett’s pain into a political debate the constant attack on Black LGBTQ+ lives cannot go undiscussed. Especially when the attack was politically driven under the slogan of the president.

As someone who identifies as a black LGBTQ+, I am extremely lucky to have a support system of people around me who love me and to live in a country where casual racism is not acceptable. However, many black LGBTQ+ people struggle with not only a lack of support from family when coming to terms with their sexuality but with the systemic isuses they face regarding their race too. Every year millions of Black LGBTQ+ people are made homeless due to their sexuality, often culture does not allow for them to be who they are. In a Stonewall study showed that 66% of Black LGBTQ people would like their faith groups to be more inclusive, showing how many of them feel ostracised from their family and religion because of their sexual orientation. Their lives are also at risk from racial attacks, these attacks occur more frequently towards gay men (like Jussie and trans women). Studies also show that 61% of Black LGBTQ+ people experience discrimination within the LGBTQ+ community, meaning that even within the community there is no refuge for them.

As a Black LGBTQ+ person I do not feel that LGBTQ groups are inclusive enough of us. In 2018 filmmaker Cherish Oteka paired with Stonewall to share the voices of BAME LGBTQ+ people and through their experiences of acceptance and exclusion we are now able to identify what we can do to ensure that there is greater inclusiveness within the community. Absolut UK also paired with many LGBTQ+ people of colour such as Nadine Artois and Tanya Compas for their 2019 #ADropOfLove campaign.

Tanya Compas for #ADropofLove Campaign

Campaigns like this are a step forward as they raise awareness of the problems that occur for black LGBTQ+ people that their white counterparts may not expereince. There are sadly not many large campaigns focused specifically on race which makes it difficult to discuss. Police are following up the leads to Jussie’s attackers and have brought two men in for questioning, sadly this is not usually the case and perpetrators of these kind of attacks are usually allowed to roam free.