Liam Neeson’s comments have caused controversy over the past month. The
Premiere of his latest film has been cancelled, or at least postponed, and
commentators allude to the end of his career. Some, though, have come to his
defence, notably John Barnes and, in a brief radio interview a couple of days into the
furore, Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Priest-in-Charge of St. Mary-at-Hill, City of
London since 2014.
In my view, she made a valuable contribution to the issue of racism arising from
Neeson’s comments. When asked if he should have spoken about his feelings,
Reverend Hudson-Wilkin said; ‘. . .we are all allowed to feel.’
Being honest about our thoughts and feelings is one of the most difficult things to do;
when it comes to such a subject as racism it can be even more difficult. Even racists
often qualify their thoughts and opinions by denying their racism and seeking to
explain them as something else; such is the accepted social stigma attached to
Conversely, when opinions are aired publicly there is often a rush to judgement,
outrage and condemnation calling for censure, sanctions and punishments that are
absolute and unyielding.
Despite the stringent policing of our own thoughts and feelings, is it not true that we
are all racist to some degree? And, if we accept this to be true, surely the healthiest
way to explore one of the most important issues of our time is to talk about it, give it
oxygen. This enables us to hear others, the first step towards understanding them.
More important, to understand ourselves, how we feel and why, can only ever be
achieved in a climate of honesty and genuineness, free of the fear of being judged.
Condemning those who are being honest about their feelings closes down any
further discussion at exactly the moment when we need to open it up. Too often we
seek to silence those who have different thoughts and feelings to ours sending them
underground where they can do far more damage.
Silence and conformity may be seen as a sign that everybody thinks the same but if
we believe that we sow seeds of discontent from which anger and tyranny can all too