No Medal for Liam Neeson

We shouldn’t be surprised.

Liam Neeson’s admission that he went looking for a ‘black bastard’ to kill after learning that the rape of his friend was committed by a black man was only shocking in so far as he admitted it.

190205111817-liam-neeson-gma-interview-im-not-racist-bts-mxp-vpx-00001428-exlarge-169.jpg

And no John Barnes, he doesn’t deserve a medal. If there is anything he deserves, it’s to be on a poster; a poster showing how his thoughts and actions were not unique. They were the thoughts and actions of many a self denying racist. Neeson sought to seek revenge not on the man who committed the heinous act of rape, but on any black man he came across. An innocent black man’s life was under threat because, for a week, Neeson decided that the act of one black man, justified the killing of any black person.

Neeson’s words should highlight a larger point; that the environment in which he was brought up, had an impact on how he reacted. Not everybody who grows up in an environment produced by British imperialism will feel the compunction to try and find a black person to kill as a method of revenge. Thankfully he didn’t. When black people talk about having better and more positive representation in the media, it is to combat situations like this. Had Neeson not had his bigoted upbringing in Northern Island during the ‘troubles’, perhaps his thoughts wouldn’t have gone to such a dark place. But they went there.

I don’t doubt that there are many people across the UK who heard his confession and could empathise with Neeson, having had similar thoughts on one occasion or another. While they may not admit it like Nesson, or may not have carried out their own brand of vigilante justice, those thoughts and feelings do not just disappear after talking to friends. They surface in the form of off colour jokes, burner twitter accounts, the rejection of a black Hermione Granger and ridiculous stories about Raheem Sterling. The microaggressions and subtle racism that many people of colour often talk about are the outpourings of white frustration at not being able to exact the violent revenge that may take over their thoughts. The lynchings in the US during the mid 20th century, were children were given days off school and the bodies of young black men were left to hang like Strange Fruit, were the result of whites being able to express their anger with no repercussions. To them, taking the life of any black person was justified if there was even a hint of wrongdoing. If Liam Neeson had indeed killed a black man in revenge, it would tantamount to nothing short of a modern day lynching – the killing of an innocent to appease a desire for race based revenge.

When this all happened is irrelevant. The fact that it happened is all that matters. Winston Churchill is well known for being a racist, having expressed his disgust for Indians saying, ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” However, his supporters are quick to point out that he simply held the opinions of his time. Imperialism thrived as the British Empire regarded blacks as less than human 400 years ago. Men, women and children were segregated in the United States 60 years ago because of the colour of their skin. 40 years ago Neeson wanted to kill a man for a crime he did not commit simply because he was black. The New Cross fire in 1981. Stephen Lawerence in 1993. Dylann Roof in 2015.

The opinions of the time seem to be timeless.

Of course, Liam Neeson has learned from that ‘episode’. There would be no way he would have volunteered that information if he didn’t feel as though he could declare that he is now over his racism, like a strong bout of flu. For him, it was a moment in time. For many of us, it’s a daily reality, knowing that there are people walking the streets who want to act out on thoughts that have been influenced by the media and learnt from family members and immediate communities. Their thoughts and actions may not kill us, but they may affect job prospects, our love lives, self-confidence and mental health.

Neeson was right about one thing though. There needs to be more dialogue. But not from us. We’ve marched, protested, debated, written, sung, and preached for years. To quote Reni Eddo-Lodge, ‘You can only do so much from the outside’.

And power walking won’t help.

Advertisements

Donald Sterling was finally racist enough

Image

As we all have heard, seen and read by now, LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught making comments about Black people in a conversation with his mistress. The fallout of which first resulted in the team staging a non-logo-black-armband-wearing protest before a loss to Golden State, and peaked with the Commissioner Adam Silver banning Sterling from the NBA for life and fining him $2.5 million. Silver also said that he will try to force Donald Sterling to sell the LA Clippers, with people like Magic Johnson, Floyd Mayweather and David Geffen.

There are so many talking points that this scandal has raised. Will he be forced to sell? Clearly Sterling deserves the sanctions imposed upon him and many will be hoping that the sale of the Clippers happens as soon as possible. Whether or not he will be forced to sell is another talking point. If the other NBA owners decide to vote against Sterling having to sell, then he won’t have to, which in turn will raise further questions. The fact that this conversation was private but was leaked to the press is another topic. Should he be sanctioned for the views he expressed in private? Should the players boycott the team even though they have a legitimate chance to win the title this season? What I want to focus on is the fact that maybe things shouldn’t have gotten this far in the first place.

When it comes to racism, there seems to be a grey area and a line. Is it racist when a comedian like Chris Rock makes jokes about White people? Racist when Russell Peters makes jokes about Asian people? Were we little racists growing up in school singing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’? Is it racist that the only current black or mixed manager in the English Football League is caretaker manager/player Ryan Giggs? Is it racist when asked if Black people can get sunburnt? “You are Asian but you don’t wear a turban?”. Should Snoop Dogg have said what he said in response?

Donald Sterlings indiscretions started back in 2009 when he had to pay a settlement of over $2.7 million as he was accused of housing discrimination – not allowing Black and Hispanic people to rent out apartments he owned. Prior to that, in 2003, it is alleged that he tried to force out non-Koreans out of apartments he owned in Koreatown, LA. He had bought the then San Diego Clippers in 1981 but no-one had said anything. Neither the NBA nor players made any real protest about a man who had also been alleged to have made unsavory comments about Black people before the weekend. Great, the NBA, players, journalists and fans have reacted now, but what about back then? Does it really take hard evidence like a taped phone call for action to be taken?

Evidently it does. Maybe the NBA didn’t react because the housing scandal has nothing to do with basketball. Maybe the average fan turned a blind eye because they weren’t being forced out of their homes. Maybe the players said nothing because he was still signing their checks. There were no maybe about what Sterling said. I can own them, smile and like them professionally, but personally I don’t even want my girl on the side to be associated with them. It’s about the money. Btw this girl is mixed Black and Mexican. Go figure…
And then there is the Washington Redskins and Daniel Snyder. Many people feel as though the name Redskins is racist. Snyder continues to deny it is and the likelihood of the name being changed is very slim. Why? Why not change it? Because it’s going to cost millions. However, I’m sure if TMZ got hold of a recording of Snyder saying something negative about Native Americans, swift action would be taken. Fans and players are not boycotting the team because of this. There may be some action outside of the franchise, but inside they are preparing for the draft and skirting around the issue with some players referring to the team as “the Skins” to express passive displeasure.
Maybe its worth considering how being passive is ultimately rewarded. The peaceful protest leaders such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr have been praised while those who feel as though they need to be active are extremists. Malcolm X. Patrice Lumumba. It seems as though no-one wants to stand up like Muhammed Ali in 1967 and refuse to be a part of something they deem illegitimate.

Maybe we need to take a long look at what is happening around us and stop racist behaviours before they are allowed to go unchecked and understated. The NBA should have said something before. When Sterling was denying housing to minorities in 2009, the NBA was 82% black. The majority could have spoken but didn’t. The power ultimately rests with the fans. The majority. When the majority is united, then things can happen. Of course there were people clambering for Sterlings head back in 2003 and 2009 but they were in the minority. Maybe now when Blacks, Hispanics, Asians or even Whites; whenever a minority complains about institutional racism and we can’t see it, it’s up to us to listen. Institutionalised racism is a real thing guys. Burning crosses and Swastikas have been replaced by suits and smiles.

Racism still alive they just be concealing it – Kayne West