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This week saw Oscars history, Jussie Smollett confusion, and a homophobic Home Office ruling

26 Feb 2019

Breaking new ground in 2019 always feels overdue. On Sunday evening Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler became the first black women to win Oscars for costume design and production design on Black Panther. The inimitable Spike Lee won his first academy award ever that same evening. And, earlier in the week, hair discrimination was banned in New York. It’s a wonder that it took until now to achieve all of the above.

Then you look at how much more desperately needs to be done, as people still misinterpret or deliberately distort the rhetoric around representation and racism. Cheshire Police was recently undermined by a straight white male who claimed he’d been discriminated against for his race and sexuality. Some likened charcoal face-masks to blacking up, implying that all complaints about blackfacing are as facetious.

Between all of that, we heard some baffling news about Jussie Smollet that we still can’t get our heads around, which definitely feels like new territory. We’ve never had to consider what the politics are around a possible hate crime PR stunt, but for now, we should tread carefully.

Read on to learn more about what went down over the past week.

Jussie Smollett may have paid the $3,500 cheque for … personal training?

Two weeks ago the world reported on the horrific racist and homophobic attack endured by Empire actor Jussie Smollett, and now he is being accused of setting it up himself. The police have released a photo of a cheque written by Jussie to the brothers who allegedly attacked him and put a noose around his neck, that reads “5 week Nutrition/Workout program Don’t Go”.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson alleged on Thursday 21 February that Jussie was using the money to stage a hate crime and take “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”. The two men had allegedly suggested he paid them to beat him up during their police interrogation.

While a false police report, if that’s the case, is objectively wrong, Smollett’s case is a white supremacist’s wet dream. If true, it delegitimises so many very real problems, like the seemingly never-ending list of white people calling the police on black people for no reason that goes on without consequence. Or violent hate crimes which have spiked by almost 20% in the US for the third year in a row – 60% of these are racist attacks. Without a conclusive answer, it seems the media and far right pundits are all too quick to vilify Smollett.

Since the allegations, Smollett has been suspended from Empire and we’ll have to hold our breath for further info in the interest of believing victims.

Man faces deportation after UK officials refuse to believe he is gay

2019 has sent a clear message to immigrants and their children in the UK: your Britishness can be called into question at any time. Some 29 men, most of whom have families in the UK, were deported to Jamaica earlier this month, and the UK is trying its best to close its borders to British citizen and former ISIS bride Shamima Begum instead of facing the issue, that began on our island, head on.

Now the Home Office are threatening 67-year-old Malaysian, Yew Fook Sam, with deportation, saying they don’t believe he is gay partly due to the fact he does not currently have a boyfriend.

When rejecting Sam’s previous asylum claim, the judge said: “The Appellant claims that he had no relationships between 2005 and 2016. The Appellant is unable to produce as a witness single person in the UK who can vouch for the Appellant in terms of being or having been in a homosexual relationship with him either a loving relationship or a sexual one. Given that the Appellant left Malaysia in order to express his sexuality I find that incredible.”

To be unlucky in love, or finding the confidence to explore your sexuality later in life is one thing, but to have it used against you as evidence for you to be deported is far more incredible. Yew Fook Sam, known as Sam, claims he will be persecuted and imprisoned for his sexuality in Malaysia where homosexual acts are punishable by law. He fears he will be forced to endure gay conversion therapy if he returns to his country where the opposition leader blamed gay people for causing earthquakes last year.

Sam, who came out two years ago, is currently surviving on £5 a day from the government and is barred from working while his asylum claim progresses. He found acceptance at St Bride’s church in Liverpool who have set up a petition demanding the Home Office let him stay. Sam’s case reveals the Home Office’s struggle to understand the LGBTQI+ experience, especially of those living under oppressive regimes.


  • Jameela Jamil and Cara Delevingne butted heads while remembering the late designer Karl Lagerfeld, with Jamil pointing out his history of inappropriate comments. Notably, Lagerfeld described Muslims as the “the worst enemies” of the Jewish people, implying they’re worse than Nazis. He also took issue with the #MeToo movement, saying: “What shocks me most in all of this are the starlets who have taken 20 years to remember what happened. Not to mention the fact there are no prosecution witnesses.” 

  • A new initiative to highlight BAME women in the travel and tourism industry has been started by the social enterprise group Women in Travel. Eulanda Shead Osagiede, co-founder of travel blog Hey! Dip Your Toes In, is the new executive director of the BAME division, and said: “Despite the voices of women of colour within the travel and tourism industry traditionally being marginalised, there is a new wave of disruptors changing the narrative within this space.”
  • T.I. added Burberry to the list of brands he wants fans to boycott after the release of their hoodie which feature a noose around its collar, evoking racist imagery and showing disrespect to those affected by suicide.
  • More T.I. He’s saving his old Atlanta neighbourhood. The rapper started a real estate company called Buy Back the Block and is trying to improve the area but not make it expensive so that those who have always lived there don’t have to move.
  • LBC presenter Maajid Nawaz was racially attacked in Soho by a “white male assailant” who called him a “fucking P**i”. Following the attack Nawaz has said he would like to speak to the perpetrator face-to-face.
  • UK schools will begin teaching secondary school kids about mental health, healthy periods, consent, sexting and FGM in sex education classes by 2020.

Moment of the week

Congratulations to Spike Lee on his first Oscar and on brightening up the hostless evening.