On this fine Black History Month, Liam Neeson shocked the Internet when he revealed that he once went looking for a “Black bastard” to kill after a close friend of his was raped.
Neeson made the confession in an interview with Independent when he was promoting his new flick Cold Pursuit. While explaining his character’s need for revenge, Liam described an instance when his friend was raped and she told Liam that a Black man did it. In fits of anger, Neeson said he would roam the streets with a cosh (a bar used as a weapon) looking for the nearest Black man to provoke him:
“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [Neeson gestures air quotes with his fingers] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could…kill him.”
Many online souls were flabbergasted by Liam’s words.
Liam then went on Good Morning America on Tuesday to clarify his story…
But he just made things worse.
In his interview with Robin Roberts, Liam said “There were some nights I went out deliberately into Black areas in the city, looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence.”
“And I did it maybe four or five times, until I caught myself on and it really shocked me, this primal urge I had. It shocked me, and it hurt me. I did seek help. I went to a priest who heard my confession…[I had] two very, very good friends that I talked too, and believe it or not, power walking two hours everyday to get rid of this. I’m not racist, this was nearly 40 years ago.”
First off Liam, you said you deliberately went into Black neighborhoods to take out your anger on any random Black person. This is, in fact, racist.
Like…you didn’t go to the nearest Whole Foods in your neighborhood to find a Black person. You specifically went into Black neighborhoods to enact terror.
And even if your need for revenge has subsided over the years, you’ve yet to acknowledge that your targeting of Black communities was racist, which proves you still have some racism up in your bones.
And listen closely…
If you’re a White person, you should more readily assume you are racist, rather than believing you’re not.
It’s times like these that self-identified “non-racist” White people love to distance themselves from other White people who are blatantly racist, because if there’s one thing that “non-racist” White people H A T E, it’s to be called racist.
“I’m not like that horrible Liam Neeson who said he wanted to beat a random Black person,” said your random White neighbor.
“I would NEVER say the N-word,” said your White lover.
“Liam Neeson is canceled,” said the White head of your marketing team.
I get you “non-racist” White person.
But what about your racist cousin demanding more police presence in their newly gentrified neighborhood?
What about your racist uncle who bought private prison stock when Trump got elected?
It can be outright dangerous to use Liam’s actions as the sole measuring stick for racism. Wanting to kill a random Black person is the tip of the iceberg and the most primal manifestation of racist attitudes. But the system of racism is inherently violent and White people either participate in it or benefit from it.
Racism, and especially anti-Black racism, is a system of power that subjugates Black people in all corners of society, from institutions to your own personal circles. While Liam’s attitude might be an inter-personal manifestation of racism, the wealth gap between races is just one example of institutional racism that White people can benefit from.
A 2019 study by the Institute for Policy reported that the median Black family today owns $3,600, which is just 2% of the wealth median White families own at $146,984. On top of this, median White wealth is continuing to increase, while median Black wealth is on track to reach zero by 2082, according to the report. This major gap is due to years of wealth-stripping practices aimed at Black people in the housing market, prison-police systems and more.
Now you’d think with such reports, there’d be complete social media outrage from “non-racist” White people demanding more research on the racial wealth divide, discriminatory practices and the need for reparations. The same criminalization of Black people enacted by Neeson is the same criminalization used to keep Black people out of wealth stability and instead, in prisons and resource-stripped environments. Is this not the groundwork for targeted violence?
Are the “non-racist” Whites starting a social media campaign around this? If they’re aware of these issues and do nothing, aren’t they complicit in racism?
Any White person claiming they’re not racist is not beneficial to anti-racist work.
In contrast, it might be better for a White person to say “how do I benefit from racism” or “how can I be less racist today?” Part of this can just be doing your research on how systematic racism is violent and how it can be in close proximity to searching for the nearest Black person to pummel with a “cosh.”
I understand violence is on a spectrum and might require different reactions, but “I’m not racist” attitudes aren’t helping the conversation.
Racism is normal. The goal is to make it not normal on all levels.