It has only been four days, but this Black History Month is looking to be a huge mess.
In promoting his newest film Cold Pursuit, a film in which I’m sure he kills a whole bunch of people, Liam Neeson had an interview with the Independent in which he, unprompted, relayed a story about his friend being raped, allegedly by a Black man, and then walking through the area looking for a Black man to kill. It is disgusting, unnerving and the way the author of the piece tries to frame it adds about layer to this:
“She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way,” Neeson says. “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.
“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,” another pause, “kill him.”
Neeson clearly knows what he’s saying, and how shocking it is, how appalling. “It took me a week, maybe a week and a half, to go through that. She would say, ‘Where are you going?’ and I would say, ‘I’m just going out for a walk.’ You know? ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘No no, nothing’s wrong.’”
He deliberately withholds details to protect the identity of the victim. “It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that,” he says. “And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.”
“Holy shit,” says Tom Bateman, his co-star, who is sitting beside him.
“It’s awful,” Neeson continues, a tremble in his breath. “But I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the fuck are you doing,’ you know?”
Holy shit indeed. The audio is there to accompany the quotes, so there is no “taking it out of context”—he admitted on the record that he wanted to do this. He didn’t even specify that he wanted to specifically get vengeance for his friend, but just for any “black bastard” who might look at him the wrong way. It’s horrifying. Especially coming after the racist and homophobic beating of Jussie Smollett.
Also, in reading the piece I don’t really see how he “learned a lesson”; it more sounds like his temper tantrum burned out and then he was left with the sobering reality that he had been a racist. Which he could have, quite frankly, kept to his damn self. He didn’t even say “I was a racist and I’ve had to work to unlearn that.” Just “what the fuck are you doing?” and that’s pretty much what the entire internet is saying right now.
What’s more is that the interviewer decided to reach out to an associate professor of experimental psychology at University College London named Lasana Harris to discuss the comments without revealing Neeson’s identity. Harris said “incidents as abhorrent as rape can shape the way someone thinks about a specific community” and that “our minds can generalise a negative experience with a person by categorising them in a way that may be flawed.”
When it comes to the Black community across the world, the hypersexualization of the Black man has been used as an excuse to kill them since the very beginning. You want to get justice for your friend, you feel anger towards one Black man, in particular, that is one thing. To stalk the streets waiting for the first Black man to piss you off, so you can live you Birth of a Nation-style revenge fantasy isn’t a normal thought process if you don’t already have hatred against Black people in your mind.
We let you hug up on Viola Davis and you let his nonsense out of your mouth? Ugh. It’s disgusting, and I’m sure there are people attempting to defend Neeson, but there is nothing to defend. You didn’t need to bring in a professor to clarify that.
(via Independent, image: Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)
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