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A Look at the Controversy Over Liam Neeson’s Racial Comments

February 9, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

What a great, iconic line from Taken. It propelled Liam Neeson to another level and solidified his status as leading bad-ass.

That status is now in trouble thanks to a disastrous interview. Neeson’s controversy started when he spoke with the Independent that he was hoping to kill some “black bastard” upon learning his close friend was brutally raped over 40 years ago.

Backlash was instant and Neeson apologized during an appearance on Good Morning America” telling host Robin Roberts that his comments were taken out of context. “I’m not racist,” he insisted.

“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.”

“I never felt this before, which was a primal urge to lash out,” he explained to Roberts. “I asked her, ‘Did you know the person? It was a man? His race?’ She said he was a black man. I thought, ‘Ok.’ After that, there were some nights I went out deliberately into black areas in this city, looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence. I did it for maybe four or five times. 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. I had two very good friends I talked to, and believe it or not — power walking — to get rid of this.”

Robins countered that people were upset because Neeson asked about the color of the attacker’s skin, rather than other attributes like his height or weight. “I asked all those questions too,” Neeson said. “But I did ask about race.”

Neeson went on to say that he would have had the same reaction if his friend said her rapist was a white man. “I know I would have had the same effect,” he said. “I was trying to show honor and stand up for my dear friend in this terrible, medieval fashion. I’m a fairly intelligent guy and that’s why it shocked me when I came down to Earth after having these horrible feelings. Luckily, no violence occurred ever.”

In an interesting moment, Neeson in turn asked Roberts what she thinks the teachable moment should be.

“The one point I want to make out is that this wasn’t discovered by somebody. You admitted this,” she said. “This isn’t a gotcha — so I will give you credit there. But also having to acknowledge the hurt, even though it happened decades ago, the hurt of an innocent black man, knowing he could’ve been killed for something that he did not do because of the color of his skin.”

Adding to the drama, actress Michelle Rodriguez came to Neeson’s defense at the amfAR gala. “It’s all f—in’ bulls—. Liam Neeson is not a racist,” Rodriguez told Vanity Fair. “Dude, have you watched Widows? His tongue was so far down Viola Davis’s throat. You can’t call him a racist ever. Racists don’t make out with the race that they hate, especially in the way he does with his tongue — so deep down her throat. I don’t care how good of an actor you are. It’s all bulls—. Ignore it. He’s not a racist. He’s a loving man. It’s all lies.”

Here’s where we are at. Neeson’s remarks show a clear picture about racial bias. We’ve seen a number of careers, and rightfully so, end because of past behavior that is appalling. Is there any chance of redemption? In Hollywood, the line between punishment and forgiveness is blurred. To an embarrassing degree.

We keep seeing the bad acts/words and the backlash but what we aren’t seeing is a open conversation and solution. I don’t know if this needs to happen on a small scale or large scale, but it needs to happen.

I close with Neeson’s words AFTER his admission in the Independent interview: “I come from a society – I grew up in Northern Ireland in the Troubles – and, you know, I knew a couple of guys that died on hunger strike, and I had acquaintances who were very caught up in the Troubles, and I understand that need for revenge, but it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing, and Northern Ireland’s proof of that. All this stuff that’s happening in the world, the violence, is proof of that, you know. But that primal need, I understand.”

What’s your take on Neeson’s remarks?

article topics :

Liam Neeson, Steve Gustafson