Liam Neeson’s Racism Confession Is Actually the Beginning of a Very Important Conversation

Actor Liam Neeson shocked fans when he recounted a story about his own dalliance with prejudice and racism. Neeson said that after a close female relative revealed to him that she’d been raped by a black man, he walked around for about a week just hoping to find someone to confront…and punish. . .

You know that “honest conversation about race” Americans are always being told we need to have? I’ve never thought we were capable of having it. Truthfully, I think Neeson’s confession is the perfect place to start.

I once attended a community development conference in Chicago and on the second day they hosted a forum on “racial reconciliation.” The goal of the forum was to invite representatives of different races to participate on a panel and have a “brutally honest conversation” about race in America. The program flyer for the day warned that they would pull no punches and some people might feel uncomfortable about what they were hearing. Naturally I was in the front row, excited to see what this “honest conversation” might look like.

The panel was made up of a White woman, a Black man, a Chinese-American woman and a Latino man. The moderator began by asking each panel member what their biggest concern was about race in America. The white woman said she chose to acquiesce her time to the other members as she did not feel her voice as a white person was valid to the conversation (a sentiment I found extremely unhelpful). The two men gave their own standard “here’s what’s wrong with White people” answers, but the Chinese-American woman strayed from the PC script. . .

“At what point do we have to stop and admit that there is more to racism than just the racist? Why can’t we talk about the reasons people harbor racism in their hearts? Look at my dad. Is he wrong for judging all black people based on his own experience? Yes, and it shames me. But what about the resentment and hatred he was treated with? How did that shape his views? I want to have an honest conversation about race, but it seems to me that no one wants to really talk about the uncomfortable parts or ask the uncomfortable questions. Until we can sit and listen to the very uncomfortable things that people like my dad think, we can’t really air out our differences.”

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