In the wake of what is being called a racist and homophobic attack against ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollet, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) says the incident has everything to do with the way this country is being run.
While racism and bigotry aren’t particularly new in America, Rep. Waters says responsibility for this country’s tense racial climate begins at the top.
“Why all of a sudden do we have people unable to study while black, unable to mow a lawn while black, unable to have a picnic while black and being attacked? It’s coming from the president of the United States,” Rep. Waters told theGrio during her annual Millennial Media Row event on Tuesday night.
Rep. Waters has never been one to hold back criticisms of President Donald Trump, calling the White House the “white supremacists’ house” in the wake of racial violence in Charlottesville.
“[Trump is] separating and dividing and he is basically emboldening those folks who feel this way, maybe never said and never talked about it, never could act it out but now they’re on it,” Rep. Waters continued.
According to Chicago Police, Jussie Smollet was walking outside when two assailants called him racial and homophobic slurs to grab his attention, hitting him in the face and pouring an “unknown chemical” on him.
A TMZ report says, they yelled, “Aren’t you that f***ot Empire n*****?”
In one of the most chilling details from the incident report, one of the attackers tied a rope around Smollet’s neck. The rope is more than a symbol of hate- it’s the embodiment of the lynching of black men and women, which has taken place throughout United States history.
The attack against Smollet comes at a time when the U.S. has seen an uptick in hate crimes in major cities. Department of Justice data from 2017, shows that race was the #1 bias motivation in hate crime incidents. Sexual orientation was also in the top three categories of bias motivation.
“The violence against the most marginalized members of our community is nothing new,” says David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), an organization which fights for the rights of Black LGBTQ people.
“Trump has escalated the violence with racist rhetoric and destructive policies that are designed to divide and keep some of us locked out of access to opportunity,” continues Johns. “The clearest consequences of these deleterious actions are evident in these examples of vitriol, violence, even death.”
Rep. Waters, who was presented a “Black Girls Rock!” award by Smollett in 2017, says after news about the attack broke, she immediately called one of Smollett’s sisters to check on his condition.
“I was on my way to Chicago to see about him,” Rep. Waters told theGrio. “I love him. He’s a fantastic human being. He’s so giving. He shows up at all the community events. You know he does a lot working with the community. He comes from that kind of family.”