The last few weeks have been dominated in the media by racist remarks, blackface and white guilt. Liam Neeson is one of a number of white men who have been at the forefront of this ever-growing storm. Neeson’s now-infamous statement consisted of him relaying a story of his search for retribution after hearing of a friend’s rape. This spurred him to go on the hunt for a “black bastard” to “kill him”.
Many have been rightfully disgusted by Neeson’s comments. Charles M. Blow criticising Neeson on Twitter, referring to him as “a representative of racial terror.” Neeson has also come to his own defense, to clarify and reiterate that he is not a racist. He also clarified that he would have done the same if the assailant was white. Neeson also explained that in retrospect he was ashamed of his thoughts and actions.
There are varied views whether Neeson should or should not be called as racist. It is depended on two arguments. Firstly, it places the onus on black people to absolve Neeson of his guilt. it appears as though Neeson was aiming first for a cathartic confession, then absolution. This expectation is unfair, as it takes no regard for the psychological damage comments such as Neeson’s have on black people.
Secondly, Neeson’s search for vengeance is not a stand-alone instance. It is rooted in a historical power imbalance between white and black men. The presentation of black men as sexual predators and white men as heroic protectors of white women is a classical dichotomy.