Naked Politics Blogger
In the past week the media, on both sides of the Atlantic, blew up a storm regarding Liam Neeson’s comments regarding his reaction to the rape of someone close to him. If you have been blind to this story, allow me to bring you up to speed – 40 years ago, someone close to Liam Neeson confided in him and told him that she had been raped. He proceeded to ask her about the man in question, including what race the man belonged to. When she told him that her abuser was a black man, Neeson then felt a rage whereby he wanted to kill any black person for an entire week.
Many have condemned Neeson for this, but others have empathised with him stating that he was merely expressing rage on behalf of his friend and he should be applauded for admitting this thirst for vengeance, which leads us to the question: should Liam Neeson be vilified for his comments regarding the rape of someone close to him?In short, yes, he should. The main reasons for this are twofold.
Firstly, his close associate, who has now passed away, was a survivor of sexual abuse. This is something which, like so many women, will have had to live with for the rest of her life. It was something that only she should dictate on how to handle. Neeson took it upon himself to “seek vengeance” and make it his own problem, which he made solely about race. He used her experience to express his own racist desires, and her feelings around the matter were not a factor in his wish to kill a black person. When a person has experienced sexual assault, only that person can decide how they will be able to heal.
To make matters worse, 40 years later, Neeson uses her ordeal in a publicity tour for a movie. Granted, the woman has passed away and remains unknown, but this is the most disrespectful thing someone could do to a survivor. To give details of a person’s ordeal without their consent, living or not, is abhorrent. There will undoubtedly be people who were close to the victim, who may not have known of this and will experience a great deal because of Neeson’s need for publicity.The second, and most crucial, reason is that he generalised his friend’s rape to the entire black community. When Neeson expressed his wish to kill any black person, he did not at any point say that he wished to kill that specific individual, he said he wanted to kill anyone of the same colour. In 2019, we are still continuously seeing black people die for simply existing; they are systematically killed by people who are supposed to protect them. In September 2018, Botham Jean was killed in his apartment by a drunk police officer, who supposedly mistook his apartment for her own. This is one example out of hundreds, if not thousands, in the past few years. The murder of black people is a very real problem throughout the world, and Neeson only helped exacerbate it.
Some people might say, “It was 40 years ago, it was a different world back then.” Unfortunately, yes it was somewhat worse for a black person then. That, however, should not allow us to legitimise racism and the villainization of black people. Neeson’s desire for vengeance occurred only 10 years after Enoch Powell’s infamous Rivers of Blood speech, which can today still be found referenced in the depths of a particular tabloid’s comments section. There were, and still are, very few black people in Ireland. They are a marginalised community that suffered a knock-on effect from the rhetoric of politicians such as Powell. A rhetoric, which clearly, Neeson bought into and perpetuated by expressing his wish to kill any black person for an entire week.Liam Neeson may have received a degree of empathy if, when using an anecdote on vengeance, he expressed his desire to kill the specific individual who raped his close friend. He, however, did no such thing. He instead casually, without prompt, spoke of when he wished to kill one member of a marginalised community who live their lives dealing with racism and the fear that one day someone may attack them, for no reason other than the colour of their skin.