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Liam Neeson said in an interview that he is "ashamed" to think he once stalked the streets looking for a “black bastard” to kill after someone close to him told him she had been raped.
In an interview published in The Independent on Monday, Neeson said when the woman told him of the alleged rape "my immediate reaction was ... did she know who it was? No. What color were they?"
The woman told him "a black person" had raped her.
“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody," Neeson said. A cosh is a heavy stick used as a weapon.
"I’m ashamed to say that, and I did it for maybe a week hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him," Neeson said.
“It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that,” he said, adding that he's never told the story before "and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.”
Neeson's comments came during a publicity stop for his new movie "Cold Pursuit," in which his character seeks revenge after his son is killed by a drug gang. He told the tale to demonstrate how a quest for vengeance can become "primal" when a loved one is involved.
“It’s awful. But I did learn a lesson from it," Neeson said. “I understand that need for revenge, but it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing.”
Cornell L. Craig, the director of diversity programs at Pace University, said Neeson's story highlights, and can spark a conversation about, "a lot of the issues that are going on within our society."
"I connected it with the police brutality, the murder of black and brown men, and the idea that, inherently, the idea of darker skin maleness is a threat and either needs to be controlled or killed," Craig said.
"Had that had been a white male, would he have had that same reaction?” Craig asked. "I doubt he would have had that same reaction. I doubt he would want to attack any white man that he saw."
"As a person of color, you represent an entire group. And a lot of times, those implicit biases — while a person on a day-to-day basis won’t use racial slurs — some of those biases will bubble up in stressful situations," Craig said.
Some Twitter users also criticized Neeson after audio and text versions of the interview were published.
Journalist Ash Sarkar had thoughts similar to Craig's, and called Neeson out for playing the victim after the woman was raped.
Neeson's was also called out by many others as being racist for the comments.
And some were flabbergasted that he chose to share the story.
A few defended the actor, saying his words were taken out of context or could be used to spark dialogue.
Neeson's representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.