Well, this is certainly one way to roll out a movie. In what was supposed to be a harmless junket for a forthcoming film, Liam Neeson made a bizarre revelation that no one really asked for.
After a woman close to him was raped allegedly by a Black man, Neeson said he went on a mission straight out of the most racist version of the movies that have made him famous: “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 [in air quotes] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could… kill him,” he continued. “It took me a week, maybe a week and a half, to go through that. She would say, ‘Where are you going?’ and I would say, ‘I’m just going out for a walk.’ You know? ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘No no, nothing’s wrong.’”
The actor’s admission that he went out looking for a random Black man to kill has drawn the ire of many on social media. It also landed him an interview on Good Morning America this morning to discuss.
It is important to mention: today is Trayvon Martin’s birthday. He would have been 24.
Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, who was out patrolling a neighborhood under no one’s direction but his own. He spotted a teenage Trayvon Martin and called 911 while following him. During that 911 call, Zimmerman is heard saying “These assholes always get away” — clearly an indication that Zimmerman had preconceived biases towards Black people in America; an idea that Black folks are prone to crimes and don’t pay for them. That night, an altercation ensued and Trayvon Martin was dead; killed by a man angry that Black people supposedly get away with crimes.
So, on Martin’s birthday, Good Morning America had Liam Neeson on to discuss the time he went on a vigilante crusade to murder a Black man because a Black man raped someone close to him. Neeson didn’t go looking for the actual rapist. Neeson didn’t go looking for just a man. He went looking for a Black man. Because shared race was close enough proximity for him to exact revenge. He wanted a “Black bastard” while George Zimmerman saw an “asshole.” The mission is the same. The motivation is the same. The end result was different because Neeson didn’t find a Black person during that time. Zimmerman did.
Again, Trayvon Martin would have been 24 today.
The impetus for Neeson’s crusade isn’t much different from Zimmerman’s and not much different from the motivations white America has had to kill black people for ages. Think about the fear of freed slaves and what they would do to white women. Think about Birth Of A Nation and the depiction of black men as rapists who needed vigilante justice to protect white women from being raped – a depiction that led to an increase in lynchings across the South and a renewed fervor for the KKK. The people grouped together as murders and rapists who get away with crimes and subsequently pay for those crimes they don’t commit are never white men. No, instead the white men get the talk show circuits.
Liam Neeson said he went out to commit an act of racial terror. A racist terror attack. There’s no way around that. He has yet to come to terms with that part of his admission: simply believing that admitting his attempt would make him some symbol of retribution; retribution Trayvon Martin did not even need but was denied as soon as he was pegged as the same type of criminal “asshole” who Neeson was blindly searching for.
On the day when Trayvon Martin should be 24; the day we remember why he is not alive to celebrate that birthday, we are inundated with morning show clips of a man who would be George Zimmerman but just couldn’t find a Trayvon Martin to kill. Liam Neeson claims that power-walking cured his racist impulse at the time, bizarrely enough. But that stroll didn’t help him realize the exact nature of his search for racist murder. He still doesn’t get it. But he’s allowed to try to figure it out in front of national TV audiences and programs that won’t fully interrogate his motivations, but will cheer his honestly and help him promote his movie. All on the birthday of a boy who isn’t here because he was alive in the presence of a man who wanted his own brand of justice at the expense of just another Black life.