Liam Neeson, Stop Denying Racism

Liam Neeson: Don't Deny Racial Prejudice

To make amends for our mistakes, we have to fully recognize the flaws that caused us to make them. That includes racism.

HASmith
HASmith
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Liam Neeson had a chance to send a powerful message about the importance of reckoning with one's racist inner demons. Or rather, he did until he denied his own prejudices.

The award-winning actor has been at the center of controversy after he said in an interview for the new film "Cold Pursuit"— an action film in which Neeson stars— that he had once spent days wandering the streets approximately 40 years ago in hopes of killing a black men after a friend told him that she had been raped by an unidentified black man. Neeson's confession about the experience is recorded by interviewer Clémence Michallon in "The Independent" as follows:

"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."

The comments had seemed to come out of the blue; Neeson had been explaining how uncontrolled anger and a desire for revenge drove his character in "Cold Pursuit" when he volunteered the personal details of the story. Neeson went on to say of the experience, "It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that." He later added, "I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, 'What the fuck are you doing,' you know?"

A large public outcry broke out after Neeson's remarks were published, with some condemning him for his dangerous, racist behavior, while others praised him for admitting his mistake on his own accord and how he learned from it.

From here, Neeson had an opportunity to serve as a role model for others to open up about their own racist thoughts or actions. He had a chance to teach people about the importance of confronting their own internalized prejudices and how to admit to them in a way that allows for growth.

Instead, he decided to talk on the television program "Good Morning America" and outright denied being a racist.

"If [my friend] had said an Irish, or a Scot, or a Brit, or a Lithuanian, I know I would've felt the same effect. I was trying to... stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion," Neeson - who is originally from Northern Ireland but currently lives in the US - said on air.

To be clear, Neeson did not completely remove racism as a dimension of his actions; he mentioned the role of bigotry in his angry search for a black man to kill and said he was ashamed of having those thoughts, adding that he was thankful he did not end up hurting somebody else. However, Neeson's comments reveal two key things that reflect the ongoing influence of racism.

First, Neeson's claim that he would have gone after "an Irish, or a Scot, or a Brit, or a Lithuanian" with equal vigor still reveals racism on his part. It's scary that Neeson would seek to hurt anybody just because they shared the same race or culture as the person who raped his friend.

His anger over the rape of his friend is justified, but he chose to channel his anger in a racist manner. Additionally, it is worth noting that he makes the distinction between various white European cultures but does not do the same for black people; he makes the judgment based entirely on skin color. The fact that Neeson used this as his defense for why he is no longer racist shows that he is wrong about himself in that regard.

Second, Neeson fails to give an apology to black people for his discrimination against them. He expresses remorse for intentionally looking to inflict violence on one race, but does not really acknowledge the implications of why he targeted black men specifically. There is remorse, but not a full apology.

To be fair, it would wrong to characterize Neeson's admission as a completely bad thing. Yes, it is a good thing that he admitted to his actions and realized how wrong they were. It is a good thing that he opened up about it publicly and confronted his prejudice instead of internalizing it; so many of us do internalize it, and it's bad for us in the long term. And it is a good thing that he learned not to let senseless anger cause him to inflict violence on others.

But Neeson still has a long way to go. His anger in that moment does not completely account for his attempt to try to hurt a black man; it is impossible to ignore his inner racism. Sure, he confessed to bigotry on his part, but only in the past. His comments from the "Good Morning America" interview shows that he still has to acknowledge his own racial prejudice in the present.

Racism never fully goes away, but it's possible to always continue to learn how to grow beyond it and prevent it from dominating one's mind. The process of learning from racism must be constant and ongoing. Neeson seems to forget that.

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The Identity Crisis You Face As A Child of Immigrants

A letter to those who feel as though they do not belong in their parents' culture, or American culture.
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In 1975, my mother and father did something more impressive than anything I will ever do: they left their home country of Vietnam, and immigrated to the United States. While leaving Vietnam may have been daring, it was not the end of our family’s struggles. My parents learned right away that in order to thrive in America, they had to adapt. After awhile, they learned English, went to American school, and now, they are living lives similar to a non-immigrant family. They are able to enjoy life in America (within limits), but are also still very much established in their Vietnamese culture. They have assimilated, but not completely.

Now, as the son of immigrant parents, I face an identity crisis. I’m too Asian for the white kids, and too white for the Asians.

Growing up, I was pressured to “succeed” in America, and to do this, I needed to adapt in a society that wasn’t really my own. I always thought of myself as an American, as my guilty pleasures included cheeseburgers and reality TV. However, being pressured as a child to fit in with American culture caused me to become “too white” in the eyes of my parents, while at the same time, the white kids at school (I grew up in Florida, going to predominantly white schools) would insult my Asian traditions.

The issue I face now is that I am disconnected from my family, and I am also disconnected to the society I live in. My family and I have issues with communication due to my lack of knowledge of Vietnamese customs, and I am considered an outcast to white America. While not fitting in with American standards is mostly not my own fault, being apart from my Asian identity is definitely due to my own actions. I wanted so badly to fit in with white people that I ended up feeling a sense of resentment towards my parents’ culture. I was so focused on perfecting my English (in order to not be ridiculed by the white students at my school), that I never really learned Vietnamese. Nothing makes me more upset than not being able to fully communicate with members of my family, specifically my father, who enjoys speaking his native tongue. Can you imagine going 20 years without being able to really talk to someone you love?

Being 20 years old now, I feel a sense of regret, as I wish I focused more on learning about Vietnamese customs and traditions. I wish I never let myself feel ashamed for being Asian.

While the struggle of racial/cultural identity differs from person to person, I, myself, feel as though I am living within two worlds, but never really belonging to either. The sad thing many Asian Americans come to realize is that neither your Asian family nor white America will ever fully accept you, and that single feeling can make a person feel very lonely. You may enjoy using chopsticks, eating traditional food, and taking your shoes off after entering a house, but you will never really feel comfortable with who you are.

The life as a child of immigrants can be very confusing, and very lonely. You may never feel as though you have a sense of belonging anywhere. Random strangers tell you to “go back to your own country,” as though you were not born on American soil. Your family may call you “white-washed,” and you’ll feel ashamed. If this feeling hasn’t set in yet, you may still have time to enrich yourself within your parents’ culture, and I hope you do so. If you’re a younger Asian American and you’re reading this, I want you to know that trying to be a part of something that you are not—no matter how badly you want it—will not work. While you may want to be more white, you never will be, but your Asian family will always love you, as long as you embrace your roots. Respect where you came from, and it will make your life infinitely better.

Cover Image Credit: Matthew Nguyen

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Dear Marvel, You Really Need TO Do Better With Representation

This is simply a poor attempt at more diversity.

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SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Avengers "Endgame" hit theaters and shattered records across the world with making an amazing $350 million in North America and an even more stunning $1.2 billion worldwide. In fact, 'Endgame' has already destroyed records set back "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Avatar," and even the first part of the movie, 'Infinity War.' Fans went in expecting a mix of emotions and for the most part, the movie definitely delivered. However, there is one thing that some fans are severely disappointed in.

Directors like the Russo Brothers hyped up an "exclusive gay character" and "Marvel's first openly gay character" in the 22 movie franchise. But fans weren't happy with what they received after all of this hype beforehand. While representation is representation sometimes it's simply not good enough. In this movie, Steve Rogers (Captain America) goes to a counseling group with others to deal with such a huge loss in their world and lives. This is where we meet the "exclusive" gay character, who barely even has a name. He's an unnoticeable character if you're not paying attention, has no relevance to the plot, and doesn't make any kind of difference in the movie at all. He talks about how he finally went out on a date, with a guy, and how eventually they both cry while reflecting on their lives after the snap. While they call this "exclusive," we call this pretty close to queerbaiting.

Making a big deal over a background character and parading him around for his sexuality isn't what we would call representation. While it's always cool to see an LGBTQ character on the screen in such a huge series, this character is still just a minor character and has no relevance and is literally never seen again. He is on screen for less than five minutes before we never see this character again. This is what you call representation? A minor background character with no importance whatsoever? No thanks!

What we are looking for is at least someone that has something to do with the plot, not just there to say they've done it and market to the LGBTQ community. Marvel needs to do better when it comes to this. Their big deal over a minor character lost our respect more than it gained because this excitement was only a money grab more than an actual attempt at diversity. When we have characters like Valkyrie, who is Bisexual in the comics, we want to see more major characters gain this diversity. Even Captain Marvel actress Brie Larson agrees, "we gotta move faster" as no person should be excluded from being a superhero for any reason, even sexual orientation.

So Marvel, while you're here breaking box office records, don't forget to do better at giving the LGBTQ community the representation they deserve, and the representation we all want! And until you do, we'll just be here looking over Brie Larson's and Bev Johnson's support of Captain Marvel and Valkyrie!

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