Liam Neeson: Don't Deny Racial Prejudice

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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17 Signs You Grew Up Irish

Irish and proud!
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With a name like Shannon Elizabeth Ryan many people right away sarcastically ask the question "you're not Irish are you?" I always laugh and jokingly say nope not at all. I'm extremely proud of my Irish heritage, but what does it mean to be Irish?

Here are 17 signs you grew up Irish:

1. You have a distinct Irish name: first or last

Shannon, Elizabeth, Michael, Patrick, Sean, James, Ryan, Riley, Mahony, Murphy. Extra points if your last name begins with O', Mac or Mc.

2. You have been called a "potato head" or towhead as a child

Shannon Ryan

"What a bunch or potato heads!" Meaning you were really Irish or really blonde or both.

3. You were raised Catholic

Shannon Ryan

Catholic school, mass every Sunday. Oh and you were most likely an alter server or in the choir and can say the mass forward and backwards.

4. You have a love for potatoes of any kind.

Also, you may have read this book about a potato as a child.

5. You've been told, "Oh, you're Irish, you can hold your drinks."

Giphy

I mean it's in your blood, right?

6. Funeral, wedding, birthday you really can't tell the difference

Wedding? Get the whiskey. Oh, you said funeral?

... get the whiskey.

7. You know old Irish Songs and sing along with every note

"The Streets of New York," "Black Velvet Band," "Wild Rover," "Molly Malone," "Galway Girl," "Danny Boy," tell me ma all songs I remember being singing along with as a kid.

8. Your favorite holiday is St. Patrick's Day and you go all out

A day to show the world that there are only two types of people in the world: those who are Irish and those that wish they were.

9. You own a Celtic cross, Claddagh ring or any Irish knot jewelry and wear it often

You were most likely given that Celtic cross when you were born and got one for your First Holy Communion. The Claddagh was given by someone who loves you and Irish knots you can never go wrong with.

10. Two words: "soda" and "bread"

Some don't know that the cross made on the top of bread is to keep the devil away and protect the house.

11. You have a HUGE family and the parties and reunions that go along with it are just as big

My family is enormous and this is only half of it and I still don't know everyone.

12. There is no such thing as tanning

Unless you ware one of the blessed ones who do tan I'm extremely jealous. For the rest of us, we have two options pale or red there is no in-between.

13. You may not have the cleanest mouth or quietest voice

But you would never dare say a bad word in front of someone older than you. As for an indoor voice, it's non-existent.

14. You can successfully pull off an “Irish Exit" and then have to explain to your friends the next day what exactly that is when they ask where you went

Basically means you leave the party without anyone knowing.

15. At one point in your life, you've said, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph" if something went wrong

I heard this a lot growing up and I catch myself saying it every now and again.

16. The only college football team you root for is Notre Dame

I mean is there any other, Let's Go Fighting Irish!

17. Lastly, you are extremely proud of your Irish heritage

We are Irish. We are taught to be strong, have faith in God and learn how to party and have fun. Erin Go Bragh!

Cover Image Credit: kingofwallpapers.com

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Lighter Skin Doesn't Automatically Make You More Beautiful, Colorism Is A Real Issue

No matter how dark or how light you are, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

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South Asian communities are keen on the image of beauty having relation to being "fair and lovely." Eurocentric beauty standards and traditions have often led to a vast statistic of young brown teenage girls to feel insecure about the melanin they were born with. I've never unraveled this concept of relating paler skin with more beauty. Growing up, I've had the "privilege" of living beneath a light colored complexion, as relatives, family friends, and even strangers, have often glorified the color of my skin. I was introduced to a concept called "light-skinned privilege."

A dark-skinned girl would write about the adversity she faced as she tackles a society that shames her skin and worships European beauty features. She'd recount how she overcame this shallow mentality by learning to love and accept her dark skin. To provide an interesting twist, I am writing from the perspective on the other end of the spectrum, as a "light-skinned" brown girl, to acknowledge the fact that my skin gives me privilege in a society that has been internalizing colorist values for generations on end, and why this toxic mentality is harming brown communities.

In a metaphorical and comprehensible sense, it may be simple to compare "light skin privilege" to "white privilege," or colorism to racism. Both are systematic preferences for individuals who are of a superior trait, color, or race, giving those people societal advantages in regards to their possession of the ideal physical attractiveness standards. Colored men and women are systematically oppressed by colorist or racist means; sometimes, unfortunately, by both at the same time. But colorism, compared to racism, is an anomalous social issue that occurs every day, something I've recognized since I was nine years old.

It was nearly 100 degrees. The concrete of my backyard burned the soles of my feet and the air was laced with intensified humidity. But still, it's summer. No one stays in their house; folks practically lived in the outdoors. We cooked, conversed, slept, and ate right on our own property. The people of my culture spend every day living in the ambiance under the sun, so why is colorism such a normality?

It's because my people want to embrace their sun, but are pressured to hide in the shade. My nine-year-old charismatic self completely ignored this. I played freeze tag, rode my bike, and played games under the sun all day, until one day, my mom said to me:

"Melissa why you run in the sun all day? Your skin will turn black!"

She expects me to spend more time in the shade than in the sun. If I am in the sun, I must be fully clothed, even in 100-degree weather. Wearing a tank top and shorts while being in the sun is utterly scorned upon. It is dangerous, detrimental to my well-being, not because of the fact that I'm exposed to an excessive amount of harmful UV rays that can potentially cause skin cancer, but because my skin tone will become darker, and my "beauty will fade."

To avoid any misinterpretation of all this, I'm not whining about how "difficult" it is to have light skin. I'm not saying that those with light skin can be oppressed just as much as people with dark skin. Because they can't be. It's not the same. In reference to my racism analogy previously mentioned, saying people with light skin can also be oppressed in colorist communities is like saying white people can be oppressed in colored communities. This is completely false. The concept applies both ways; the same way minorities cannot systematically oppress white people is comparable to dark-skinned people not having the privilege and power in society to discriminate light skin people.

When a girl is shamed for her dark complexion, encouraged to bleach her skin, buys foundation a few shades lighter, invests in the popular "Fair & Lovely" skin cream, idolizes magazine cover models who are only of light skin complexion, learns that men in colorist communities prefer light-skinned women over dark skin, this is known as real, systematic oppression. This is a problem that is highly underrated.

However, there are no creams used to make a person of lighter complexion darker. No one is pressuring me to stay in the sun so I can be darker. What my mother had said to me was not systematically oppressive at all. It was said in a tone of admiration and caution, not a tone of distaste and discrimination.

I've read works addressing social injustices such as racism and police brutality, sexism, and homophobia, but can barely recall one that touched upon colorism. Today, I've used my "light skin privilege" as a platform to speak out against colorism and to raise awareness on the problematic cultural notions instilled in the minds of young girls in colored societies.

In other words, love your skin! Love the color of it, please. No matter how dark or how light you are. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

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