Liam Neeson’s shameful confession sheds light on implicit racial bias

Liam Neeson

NBC NEWS — Liam Neeson is in the hot seat after a UK newspaper published a story that includes his recount of a dark moment in his past.

In the interview, Neeson confessed that nearly 40 years ago, after a woman close to him told him that she had been raped, he had a “primal urge” to seek revenge against any black person regardless of whether or not they had been involved in the crime:

“And after that, there were some nights I went out deliberately into black areas in the city, looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence.”

The actor expressed shame, guilt, and even disbelief at his own actions. Hopefully, Neeson’s confession will prop open the doors to a deeper conversation about implicit racial biases and the situations in which these biases tend to bubble to the surface.

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‘White spaces’ are helping white people confront racial biases

NBC NEWS — “White spaces” are popping up around the country, and they aren’t as bad as they sound. These groups of all white adults were created to give white people an opportunity to have candid conversations about identifying white privilege and implicit biases.

The Metro St. Louis chapter of the YWCA is home to several “white space” groups. The chapter’s racial justice director, Mary Ferguson says that the YWCA’s program began in 2011, but interest spiked after Michael Brown was killed by police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in 2014.

Ferguson says that more than a dozen groups are set to begin meeting in January:

“It was important to us that we had a group where people of color wouldn’t be on the spot, wouldn’t be asked to teach, wouldn’t be asked to listen to white people as they struggle to understand racism. One of the greatest fears that many of our participants express is the fear that they’re going to offend, that they are going to show their ignorance, that they are going to upset other people and they sense it themselves. One way that we can open up the space for conversation is to make the group all white.”

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How race affects jury selection

black lawyer jury

A new study by a North Carolina law school is said to prove racial bias in jury selection. The study, by the Wake Forest School of Law, shows that prosecutors remove about 20 percent of African-Americans from jury pools, compared to 10 percent of whites. Meanwhile, defense attorneys skew the other way, removing 22 percent of white jurors and 10 percent of African-Americans. In The New York Times, Wake Forest law professor Ronald Wright breaks down the study:

When the dust settles at the close of jury selection, defense attorneys’ actions in the last leg of the process do not cancel out the combined skewed actions from prosecutors and judges. The consistent result is African-Americans occupying a much smaller percentage of seats in the jury box than they did in the original jury pool.

Wright also offers two “simple solutions” to the issue. You can read his analysis in The Times. 

‘Existing While Black’ sheds light on racial profiling and discrimination

Upset Black Man

HUFFINGTON POST — HuffPost asked black readers to share their stories of being subjected to racial profiling and discrimination. They described moments when someone called the police on them for no apparent reason aside from their race. They recalled scenarios of cops stopping and searching them because their skin color made them look “suspicious.” They also said how maddening it is to live with the constant anxiety of possibly having their presence — and innocence — questioned.

Existing While Black is a small collection of real anecdotes that underscores the unjust policing of black bodies, according to readers. Due to how deeply racism is woven into society’s DNA, this list is by no means comprehensive. HuffPost will continue to update this list and highlight the constant burden we face. This issue deserves more attention than a few headlines in the news cycle.

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Three Black people checked out of their Airbnb rental. Then the police were called

Police lights

CNN reports that residents of a Rialto, California neighborhood called the police on four women who were checking out of their Airbnb rental property. Rialto police detained Kelly Fyffe-Marshall and her three friends — two of them African-American like her — for 45 minutes while the police attempted to determine whether or not a crime had been committed. This is one of several recent incidents in which people of color across the country have been either arrested or detained by police for innocuous acts.

Podcast: Racial inequities in the criminal justice system

Paul ButlerGeorgetown law professor Paul Butler is a former federal prosecutor in Washington, DC who once put people in prison. Now, he believes that prisons ought to be abolished. In this podcast by the ABA Journal available at the Legal Talk Network, Butler talks about the racial inequities that are built into the criminal justice system, advice for young black men when they deal with police officers, and his belief that something radical, not gradual, is needed to address the civil rights issues that remain in the justice system.