Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman and the reporter

Despite my analysis of the wider history of Neeson’s logic, it would be remiss to not critique Neeson himself. 

Neeson admitted a racist and dark period of his life. His racism, in part, was a reaction to a horrific event that happened to his friend. However, for many, it seemed more of an excuse for racist bias that already exists. 

People are asking “but why did he ask the colour of the rapist?”

This is a valid question. What if she had said, he was white. Would Neeson have searched the streets for a random white guy to kill? Probably not. 

As Bush said, “whites don’t kill whites”

Neeson would have been upset, but satisfied that the police would bring his friend justice. Whereas, when it comes to Black people and justice, as the abovementioned examples have listed, Black people are often the victims of extra-judicial murders. Whereby, vigilante justice is justified in the minds of racist people because Black people are seen by some as guilty until proven innocent.

Neeson did go on to admit his actions were wrong and shocking.

“It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that. And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid. It’s awful. But I did learn a lesson from it. when I eventually thought, ‘What the fuck are you doing’, you know? ”

Liam Neeson

This admittance has been seen by some as a reason why our reaction to his revelation should be more balanced. Their argument is that Neeson has admitted a mistake, he is taking ownership of a bad period of his life and is somewhat repenting, as he is now a ‘changed man’. 

During the interview, his co-star said

“holy shit”

Tom Bateman

And the reporter’s response was

“You can relate to that”

Clémence Michallon

This was the subtotal of the reporter, Clémence Michallon, reaction to Neeson’s revelation during the interview. Admittedly, it was only supposed to be an interview about Neeson’s new movie, Cold Pursuit. So, Michallon has argued that Neeson’s revelation was very unexpected. This is a fair statement.

However, this is very much an example of a muted reaction, when stronger questioning is needed. Especially when there are no Black people present in the room. However, it should not always be our job, to hold white people accountable for their racism. This can be both mentally draining and improbable, as we are often not in the room in the first place.

Instances, like this remind me of this quote from James Baldwin:

I don’t know if labor unions and their bosses hate me, but I know I’m not in their unions. I don’t know if the real estate lobbyists have anything against Black people, but I know the real estate lobbyists keep me in the ghetto. I don’t know if the board of education hates Black people, but I know the textbooks that they give my children to read and the schools we have to go to. Now, this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my women, my sisters, my children, on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen. –

James Baldwin -Dick Cavett Show, 1968

If this was not an interview, it would have simply been a conversation between a group of White people. A conversation that had an unexpected racist revelation. At that moment, someone should have spoken up, pressed the issue and pursued a more in-depth discussion.

Black people are not privy to most conversations like this that White people have. Most will never be recorded, or reach the wider public’s knowledge.

Thus, it is imperative that our so-called allies or those who would call themselves ‘not racist’ actually prove this idealism by their actions and deeds, not mere tweets or beneficial articles.

Tom Bateman’s and Michallon, reactions are bad examples of the role White people need to play in dismantling racist, rhetoric, thought process and actions.

When I was younger, someone told me, their friend was racist, I asked why? They said he had been mugged by a Black person and since then he hated all Black people. My response, was what did you say when he told you that?

It is easy to come to Twitter and tweet about how difficult it was to publish this story. Without admitting, the wealth of clicks, views and appearances your interview is going to provide your media organisation and career. 

The true test of being an ally against any prejudice is what you say in the moment, how you confront someone’s prejudice beliefs or statements; not merely revealing them to other people. That is easy, it is a scoop and you benefit from it. 

Essentially, in the this one interview with have 3 examples of people in society.

  1. The I once had racist beliefs or thoughts, but now I think I am over them, person.
  2. The ‘OMG’ someone else is racist, let me give a emotive, so people realise I am shocked; but, I won’t confront them at the time, person
  3. The someone told me something racist, but instead of confronting them, I will tell other people and hopefully they will confront them for me, person

Social media is filled with the last two examples. However, society would be better if the actions of all three were better.

Liam needs to publicly, condemn his previous actions, whilst admitting where his mindset came from. Not simply blaming ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland, which has nothing to do with Black people.

Tom Bateman, needs to reflect on why despite being shocked, he did not have the courage, to press the issue of his co-star and hold him to account.

Clémence Michallon, as a cultural journalist, Michallon needs to examine what the role of a journalist is. Surely in an unexpected instance like this, it is a great chance, for a wider issue to be explored, investigated and exposed. As a society, we need journalist to explain the issues the divide us and hold to account those whom reflect a logic, thought-process of action that is divisive or prejudice. 

However, for all of these people to do this, they will need, like most people in society, a better understanding of the tragic history of race relations in the world and a knowledge of why Neeson’s words are merely the tip of an iceberg that usually does not end in the person simply giving up after a week, but actually murdering a Black person.

In short, I am glad Neeson revealed his previous, logic, thought-process and actions. He should spend time reflecting on why he chose to reveal it only now, why he had that mindset at the time and whether he still has those unconscious biases.

But, Neeson should not be alone in this self-reflection. As a society, we need to admit that people of colour are generalised and stereotyped by the actions of a few of their peers. This is self-evident from the rise in Islamaphobia, Black people often fatal interactions with the police and the media’s portrayal of minorities.

At this moment, if we only focus on Neeson, we miss the bigger issue and the forces and narratives which create and continually perpetuate and indoctrinate his mindset into many other people in society.

By Antoine Allen

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