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Liam Neeson race row: Actor doesn't understand the importance of political correctness

Liam Neeson race row: Actor doesn’t understand the importance of political correctness

Hollywood actor Liam Neeson has sparked an ongoing race row after admitting he wanted to kill a black man in a racist revenge attack.

The Taken star, 66, said he carried a weapon and walked the streets in the hopes he would be provoked by a black man so that he could kill him after his friend was raped.

Neeson has since denied being a racist and said he reacted in a way that he was “ashamed” of.

Sky News presenter Gamal Fahnbulleh writes why the actor may not have made the shocking remarks 10 years ago.

There was one news item this week that kicks me square in the stomach.

Yes, news can be a depressing business. Watch the channel on any given day and we’re reporting on misery, poverty and violence; but this story feels personal.

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Gamal Fahnbulleh thinks Neeson doesn’t understand the important of political correctness

The headline is “the actor Liam Neeson says he once set out to kill a black man after a friend had been allegedly raped”.

During an interview to promote his latest film he revealed a female friend had been raped many years ago.

So angered was the Hollywood star he sought revenge. Not on the perpetrator but on a random black man.

Why? Because the alleged guilty party had the same skin colour. An approach would suffice, perhaps a wrong word said and that would be the end of it.

In his words he hoped “that some black would come out of a pub and have a go at me, so that I would kill him”.


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Gamal (L) with presenter Claudia-Liza Armah

My first thought was that that black man could have been me, a friend, one of my cousins, or even my nephew in a few years’ time.

What did we do to deserve that? I’m not going to lie, it hurt. I’m a movie buff and this is an actor I’ve watched since I was a kid.

Liam Neeson was ready to take a person’s life because of the colour of their skin.

I was an 80s child and 90s teen and I didn’t experience the racism the generation before had to live with.

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I am familiar with casual racism of the 70s and early 80s. The unfunny quips about how all black people look the same, backhanded compliments about how one is “articulate” or being branded a trouble maker for speaking out of turn.

Times have definitely changed for the better but I do fear that recently, both home and abroad, public discourse has changed.

I might be wrong, but five to 10 years ago I don’t believe the actor would have said what he said. I believe that was because of political correctness.

Political correctness, in a nutshell, means avoiding language and actions that insult, exclude or harm people who are already experiencing disadvantage and discrimination.

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It’s all too easy to say “PC has gone mad” or wax lyrical about it denying other people the right to free speech. But I do believe there is a place for it and it should have stopped the actor in his tracks.

Perhaps it’s been eroded to such an extent that people feel they can now say what they want regardless of whom it offends.

To be clear, I’m not saying Liam Neeson is racist but I do believe in that moment he was racist.

He’s attempted to explain himself. For some that’s good enough, for others it’s not.

Perhaps if he’d had an understanding of the importance of political correctness, he wouldn’t have offended so many people and I would have gone to see his film.