Hollywood action star Liam Neeson’s candid admission during an interview with The Independent that he once spent a week looking for a random black man he might assault or possibly “kill” after the alleged rape of a female friend by “a black person” has gone viral, pushing Monday’s headlines further from the aftermath of the Super Bowl and toward racial controversy.
For anyone familiar with the history of lynching, racial injustice and contemporary racial profiling in the United States, this interview makes for deeply painful reading, particularly at the outset of Black History Month, a time for reflection on and commemoration of the struggle for racial justice in America and, indeed, around the world.
Neeson’s admission that his thirst for revenge, as a native of Ireland raised in the times of “The Troubles,” the often-violent religious division that rocked Northern Ireland before the current peace, compelled him toward hateful behavior illustrates the truly global dimensions of anti-black racism.
Neeson’s efforts to explain himself reveal both great vulnerability and defensiveness that echo a wider, systemic pattern of cultural racism that his candid admission casts a spotlight on.
From one perspective, Neeson’s story reeks of a kind of white male privilege that sprawls from Western European pubs where he lay in wait years ago hoping to stoke racial conflict all the way to the White House in 2019.
The more hopeful view on what might come from this is that Neeson offers us a flesh-and-blood example of a nearly 70-year-old man who remains a work in progress, a man whose world was shaped by Ireland’s sectarian political struggles even as he imbibed a cultural racism — international in scope — that identified black men (regardless of guilt or innocence) as violent, criminal and dangerous.
Join us on Twitter and Facebook The remorse that Neeson admits to in recounting his story is more of an apology than black people have received from America’s criminal justice system, whose efficiency in seeking out and indiscriminately punishing black men remains unparalleled.
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