The Jussie Smollett Attack: Words Matter

A brief note on the racist, homophobic attack of Jussie Smollett, an actor I hadn’t heard of until a few days ago, but whose severe beating by a pair of “MAGA country” assailants has left me no less horrified, no less outraged, no less fearful of the real-life implications of our prevailing political discourse.

Words Matter.

We aren’t born wanting to hurt people who look and act and love differently than we do. We learn that shit. And it’s taught to us with words.

That’s why it matters when a celebrity jokes on social media about beating gay children. That’s why it matters when the president amplifies white supremacist propaganda on national television. That’s why it matters when you rage against “political correctness” after someone urges you to consider your words.

Words breed hate. Hate breeds violence. Violence breeds tragedy.

So let’s not pretend that words don’t matter, that the only things words can hurt are feelings (as if feelings also don’t matter). Because what you might deride as “political correctness” I see as an urgent defense of people’s lives, a fight for their very humanity. It’s life and death, it’s self-preservation, it’s trying not to let one person’s words get another person killed.

Words matter. Let’s use them with care.