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Liam Neeson: Archetype of Racism

The Continued Nonchalant Attitudes Toward Racism

Karen Seto from Toronto, Canada [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, Liam Neeson made a startling revelation about his inherent racism during an interview with The Independent. His co-star Tom Bateman’s “Holy sh*t” seemed to be the only appropriate reaction to this weird insertion of a confession in the entirety of the article. Neeson nimbly dances around the true horror of his confession in order to make the point of what he learned from the situation—revenge is bad. He almost instantly makes himself a victim of a “primal need” for revenge. Later, he attempts to make himself a martyr for revealing this—“And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.” Self-absolution complete.

The majority of the rest of the article focuses on more justification of his behavior. The reader is asked to contemplate his frame of mind after just having learned someone he cared for had been raped. This manhunt for any black man wanting to have a go at him so he could kill them went on for over a week. This was no knee-jerk reaction in a moment of blind rage, it was premeditated.

I’ve watched conversations on social media not only gloss over the clear confession of racism but also try to justify it as a rational reaction under the circumstances while just as nimbly avoiding the racism by blaming his youth and a typical irrational anger generally reserved for a “in the heat of the moment” defense. This is a typical dismissive attitude Black people experience daily in the face of the dehumanizing actions and words of White people, especially those who see themselves as color blind. But the level of apologia is ridiculous and very telling of the emotions not invoked when it comes to threats against Black bodies.

But we need to look closely at what was said and not said.

Neeson: “But my immediate reaction was…” There’s a pause. “I asked, did she know who it was. No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person.”

The Independent 2019 Interview with Clémence Michallon

His second question to the rape victim wasn’t simply what did he look like; it wasn’t did he have an accent nor how old the person might be. He specifically asked what color the person was. If that isn’t a red flag, you need to take off your rose-colored glasses. We also cannot skip over the long history of white women falsely accusing black men of any manner of crimes sometimes to hide their own actions, to point the finger away from someone they know. The Emmitt Till syndrome still exists in our societies. When the confession of Carolyn Bryant Donham hit the news, she had lived her life and this was akin to a deathbed confession for her self-absolution.

The next red flag of the racism that should be the focus of his confession is he was looking for some “black bastard”. Not the bastard, not some son of a b*tch, not some motherf*cker. He was very clear on who he was looking for. He is the one who remained hyper-focused on skin color, not those of us pointing out how blinded by your need for a happy ending you somehow think is buried in this pigsh*t.

Near the end of the article, we have Laura Palumbo from the National Sexual Violence Centre listing Neeson as a secondary trauma victim and likening such reactions with the trauma rape victims endure. She pulls out of her hat the flimsy excuse of gender roles, AKA Toxic Masculinity and how someone in his situation may feel powerless. I’m guessing not as powerless as some unsuspecting black man would have been while being attacked by Neeson and his cosh. She suggests that the focus should be turned to the victim and that is a perfectly acceptable goal. But what about creating new victims of people who remain in a constant state of being Othered and suffering horrible consequences from verbal abuse to being murdered. The latter being Neeson’s goal as he became an animalistic predator with no regard for human life.

That excuse was followed by another from Lasana Harris, listed as an associate professor of experimental psychology at the University College London, who states these incidences can shape the way a person feels about a community. She lists young people and old people as examples of other communities that can be the victims of bigotry. I truly can’t imagine that if the rape victim had said the rapist was elderly Liam would have been stalking around neighborhoods waiting for some old man to yell, “Get off my lawn!” so he could have a go at him.

On Good Morning America he states that:

“If she had said an Irish, or a Scot, or a Brit, or Lithuanian, I know I would’ve felt the same effect.”

– Tuesday, February 5, 2019 with Robin Roberts

The problem with that statement is it is a bit harder to discern someone’s nationality as opposed to their skin color.

What is also missing from this confession is an apology for his response in that situation, his callous disregard for the racism woven into the fabric of his part of the incident, or for so casually speaking about it as if it were no more of consequence than shooing away a fly rather than a revelation of deep-seeded hatred based solely on skin color.

The blindness here is the desire to make this a feel-good story or one of redemption when it’s simply an alarming look at how easily racism can be overlooked in conservative or progressive spaces using the very information Black people have been saying for centuries. We are not treated as individuals but as a homogeneous, monolith group; the actions of one individual color the perception of all Black people and when it comes to anger, we are as interchangeable as light bulbs.

But at least we now know revenge is bad.

Written by Pamela Getz

Writer and Activist. Follow Pamela on Twitter @goddesspamela.

Pamela Getz is Editor of International Affairs for Progressive Army and a member of its Editorial Board.

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Liam Neeson: Archetype of Racism