The Liam Neeson Problem
Boy, what a world we live in— where an actor feels privileged enough to admit to wanting to commit a hate crime, and using that moment to motivate them for a role in a movie! It’s hard to say whether this was a moment of an utter lack of self-awareness, or if Liam Neeson actually felt as if he were being “heroic” in his admission that he passive-aggressively combed the streets with a weapon, looking for a provocation from a Black man in the hopes that he could commit a murder.
In a recent interview, actor Liam Neeson openly discussed his desire to kill a “black bastard” after a female friend of his was raped. As he tells the story, he outright asks his friend what color her rapist was. When she said “black,” that was the only trigger he needed to set him off on a week-long stalking venture through Black neighborhoods to find a Black man to kill. All he was looking for was a motivation— someone that would start shit with him, give him a reason to kill a Black man. Now, like clockwork, he is trying to convince people that he is not a racist. Good luck with all of that…
Look, I’m not a big Neeson fan. He was just fine in Schindler’s List, he was cute on that Ricki Gervais show, and I’ve never seen any of the Taken films (le yawn). I’m saying this because I haven’t an ounce of disappointment in his admission. It’s just hysterical that this man feels like he can admit this and somehow be considered heroic by not going through with it; like we’re all supposed to be impressed with his restraint in not following through with his craven excuse to kill a Black man.
40 years ago, a friend of his was raped. This is how he recounted the conversation:
"I had never felt this feeling before which was a primal urge to lash out, and I asked her, 'did you know the person, was it a man?' No. 'Race?' She said it was a black man."
He then said that 4 or 5 times, he-- “went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence.”
The kicker is that he was asked by the interviewer if this was a white man, would he have done the same thing:
“If she had said an Irish or a Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian it would - I know it would - have had the same effect…I was trying to show honor, to stand up for my dear friend in this terribly medieval fashion.”
So….if the rapist was white, what…he would have gone into white neighborhoods, looking to kill a “white bastard?” That answer sounds like someone realizing that he couldn’t take back something idiotic that came out of his mouth.
When people talk about “white privilege,” this Liam Neeson Problem is a textbook case. It’s the gall and the comfort of admitting to the desire to commit a hate crime, to illustrate how he prepared for a role in a movie.
After the initial interview, he was asked what he wanted people to take from all of this:
"To talk. To open up…We all pretend we're all politically correct in this country...in mine, too. You sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism and bigotry and it's there. "
This is how white privilege wants to have a conversation about race…on THEIR terms. Imagine if a different actor, a Person of Color, decided to open up and talk about their past desire to murder whites. How do you think that would have gone? How would that have been perceived? People of Color are constantly chastised for the relatively LIGHT criticisms offered in regards to white behaviors…but we’re supposed to “forgive” the likes of Liam Neeson, and “applaud” his honesty? FUCK that.
No one should be okay with this, just like no one should be okay with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wearing blackface, and giving a tutorial on how difficult it is to remove black shoe polish from one’s face. NO ONE should be okay with these things, but there are always apologists. There are always those that say “well, that was in the past',” and “that’s not who they are now,” and “no one was really harmed.” Tell that to Travon Martin. Tell that to Emmet Till. Google “lynching postcards,” and tell it to those hanging from trees because of white fear, white angst, and white anger. You see, THESE are the things we should be talking about…not about some actor confessing his method.
Thankfully, most people are better than this. Unfortunately, we still live in a world where certain folks have to be told that their behavior is sociopathic, racist, and just plain stupid.
Needless to say, I won’t be watching Neeson’s next film. Hell, I haven’t even seen the last one. Good riddance.