Before we begin, let me assure you that no one is outraged.
Contrary to the assumptions of many, most people who have lived their entire existence under a system of white supremacy are rarely outraged by racism. Whether it is hearing one’s governor confess to using shoe polish as a foundation or watching the president of the United States explain how violent neo-Nazis are exactly like people who oppose violent neo-Nazis, “outrage” is an inaccurate descriptor for black America’s collective reaction to unbridled whiteness.
The sheer relentlessness of caucasity is an astonishing thing. It is impenetrable to logic and able to leap criticism in a single bound. It exists in the present and looks toward the future, but it is not responsible for its past. It is unflappable and bulletproof.
Whiteness is a wonder to behold.
This morning, noted white man Liam Neeson, known for his ability to whisper how he’s going to kill you in a gravelly voice, appeared on Good Morning America to recount his now-infamous story about a youthful revenge quest to kill a black man.
Neeson explained to host Robin Roberts, at length, the story of his friend who was supposedly raped by a black man and how it turned him into a one-man lynch mob.
“After that, there were some nights when I went out into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence,” Neeson said. “And I did for...I’d say maybe four or five times until I caught myself on, and it really shocked me, this primal urge that I had.”
Liam then explained how he was saved from these feelings by talking to a priest, some friends, and the previously unknown phenomenon of therapeutic power-walking (yes, he really said that).
Dollar Tree Clint Eastwood ended the story by insisting to Roberts, “I’m not racist.”
When I saw that clip, it left my mouth agape. It did not anger or annoy me. It was wondrous to watch Grandpa William Wallace contort the meaning of racism into an unrecognizable thing that is separate and apart from his beautiful soul. The astonishing part is that Neeson seemed to believe what he was saying.
According to Liam, the only reason he didn’t inflict violence on a random black man is that his plan didn’t work. So he tried again. And again. And again. It is not illegal to think about killing someone, but if the police find out that person has taken a single step toward carrying out a murder plot, they’d be arrested for attempted murder.
So maybe Liam Neeson is an attempted racist.
If someone ever asks the definition of racism, I might explain the fact that school funding is inversely proportionate to the percentage of black children who attend that school. Someone else might point to hate speech or show a photo of Donald Trump. But even the person who understands racism the least would say that having the “primal urge” to murder a stranger simply because of the color of their skin is the most elemental definition of racism.
There is nothing more racist than that. If that’s not racism, then racism does not exist.
I don’t think Liam Neeson is going to murder a black man. I am not outraged at him. In fact, I applaud Liam Neeson for admitting that he held these thoughts. He is not an outlier. He just admitted sentiments that a lot of people have. I have repeatedly said I wish white people weren’t so reflexively defensive when they are accused of racism because being racist in a racist country is normal. It is inevitable.
But white people, you guys need to start calling it “racism.”
I wonder how it feels to have the magical ability to transform the meaning of words by simply saying them. Fuck flying, I want the privilege of prestidigitating the preposterous into reality—to take what is and make it not so. To turn truth into a lie and fiction into fact.
Liam Neeson is not racist because Liam Neeson said he is not racist. And thus, it was true.
Yet do I marvel this curious thing:
Everyone knows racism exists...
But no one thinks they’re racist.