Let’s Talk Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson. Who is Liam Neeson? When I think of Liam Neeson, I think of the compassionate man that Oskar Schindler was, I think of the earnest Bryan Mills, I think of the courageous man that made a powerful admission on live television. Liam Neeson, 66, was born in Balleymena,County Antrim, Northern Ireland. In his Good Morning America interview, he speaks about being brought up in “the troubles”. During the 60’s through the 80’s Northern Ireland was plagued with war and bigotry was the norm, Protestants would murder Catholics and vice versa. Neeson mentions that he knew people who were involved in the wars. Growing up in turbulent times like this can influence the outlook of an individual in an extremely disturbing way, Neeson grew up immune to bigotry.  

On a newspaper interview with The Independent, Neeson revealed that nearly 40 years ago, his close friend was brutally raped by a black man, after Neeson found out about the incident he would go looking around for any “black bastard” to murder. Following the backlash Neeson received from the newspaper interview, he appeared on Good Morning America where he attempted to clear the air. He speaks about how his urge to exert physical violence shocked him and led to him to seek help from a priest.

The image of a white man walking down the streets seeking out for a “black bastard” to murder is unpleasant, detestable and rotten. The Liam Neeson controversy wasn’t a conversation starter for me, it was where the conversation ended and that is what sheer ignorance looks like. My judgement was based on that singular comment and I still think that what he had said 40 odd years ago is wrong and Neeson does too.  

When the controversy first erupted, the paramount of everyone’s attention was on that single racist phrase. After reading something as spiteful as that, it causes a fusion of different emotions- rage, disappointment and anguish. In instances such as this, we pass judgement without thinking, and there’s nothing that can change that because it is how we are wired. Now, put yourself in Liam Neeson’s shoes, at the time when his close friend had that awful experience. Neeson was enraged, his heart was full of bitterness, all that was on his mind was revenge. When a man is in a vulnerable position like that, it is challenging for him to tell right from wrong, and it is difficult for him to pull himself out of that grim place. But that’s what isolates Neeson from the common man, he identified that he had racist thoughts and that it was incorrect, he sought for help and worked towards becoming a better man.

In today’s world a lot of stress is laid upon ‘political correctness’, what is ‘political correctness’ though? Someone who is politically correct believes that language and actions that could be offensive to others, especially those relating to sex and race, should be avoided. Neeson’s admission in the interview is a stark example of how political incorrectness has been used to get people conversing about issues that a majority of us shy away from. By admitting his bigotry and subsequent redemption from that major failing, he has intended to not only bring the conversation about race to the forefront of our culture but also to serve as a learning moment for each and every one of us. His admission challenges us to dig deep within ourselves and face the ugly truth that some of us might be carrying obliviously. Neeson’s candid admission needs to be understood and evaluated from the point of view of his intention. He does not want another man like him to look for a “black bastard” to kill. Liam Neeson should be lauded for his candidness and the more Liam Neeson’s that we have the better our society will be for it.