Can You Not, Michelle Rodriguez?
Based on this Twitter thread.
“Dude, have you watched Widows? His tongue was so far down Viola Davis’s throat. You can’t call him a racist ever. Racists don’t make out with the race that they hate, especially in the way he does with his tongue—so deep down her throat.”
Michelle Rodriguez is wrong.
She’s unfortunately not alone in her wrongness, but she is stunningly, loudly, and unequivocally wrong. Hatred of an immutable characteristic like race, religion, gender, etc. does not preclude dating, marrying, or even fucking someone that displays that characteristic. Misogynists subject women to harassment, stalking, sexual violence, and domestic/intimate partner violence every day while engaging in sexual relationships with them.
Why then, should we expect racists to be any different? White and white-adjacent people, like Michelle Rodriguez, really seem to struggle with the idea that racism doesn’t have to be loud and boisterous. For them, racism must be this all-encompassing, undeniable, immediately visible thing or it loses legitimacy. It’s not “real” racism if you no one called you a nigger. It’s not “real” racism if no one was strung up from a tree. It’s not “real” racism just because your feelings were hurt. It’s 2019 and we’re still arguing about whether or not blackface is actually racist, or if it’s just a distraction from “real” racism.
But what Michelle Rodriguez, and people like her, fail to understand is that racism is insidious. It’s viral. It lingers just below the surface, festering and infecting, until its true power is called to bear. Racism is a matter of conditioning – it colours thoughts, and feelings, and beliefs – which lead to actions. It’s near impossible to understand the effects of microaggressions and the occasional dark joke when you aren’t constantly defending your humanity. That intangible quality is exactly Liam Neeson saw no real issue with his statements or his actions. It’s why he felt comfortable turning his godawful story into a soundbyte about “primal rage” in such an offhand manner. Neeson knew instinctively, unconsciously – probably consciously as well, if we’re being honest – that his murder of a random, unarmed black man would be justifiable through a horrifying combination of distilled race science and cultural fear of black men.
After all, black men are animals. They’re sexual predators. They’re inherently violent creatures with no delineation between the civilized mind and their baser instincts. It’s why Neeson’s comments about “primal rage” are so laughably ironic. This exaggerated concept of a black man’s sexuality is nothing new or revolutionary. Thomas A Foster’s “Journal of the History of Sexuality”, states, “White abolitionist Richard J. Hinton, for example, testified that ‘I have never yet found a bright looking colored man’ ‘who has not told me of instances where he has been compelled, either by his mistress, or by white women of the same class, to have connection with them.’” The second rise of the Ku Klux Klan was heralded by the 1915 film “The Birth of a Nation,” the plot of which is driven by black men pursuing white women with aggressive sexual single-mindedness. His royal orangeness took out several full-page ads in 1989 calling for the execution of the Central Park Five based on false accusations that centred a white woman as the victim of black and brown sexual predators.
Conversely – and this point seems to be lost on Michelle Rodriguez entirely – black women exist solely to be sexual objects. The use of Viola Davis as a bully club against accusations of Liam Neeson’s racism is so incredibly ridiculous because black women and girls, especially those that are dark-skinned, have always been the “fast-tailed” culprits in their own abuses. Remember when Jim DeRogatis said, “Nobody matters less in society than young black women,”? The sheer ignorance of Michelle Rodriguez’s statement is almost eclipsed by the irony of our (presumed) sexuality being used as a cudgel against us in this way. Viola Davis is forced to bear both the burden of Liam Neeson’s implied sexual attraction to her and the weight of his racism in this moment. She must come to his defence and absolve him of his racism because she let him kiss her, and she would never let a racist stick his tongue down her throat.
It would have been so much easier for Michelle Rodriguez to say “This is my friend, and I don’t think he’s a racist.” But instead, she thrust herself in to the spotlight – using Viola Davis’ back to stand on – and made these asinine comments with no consideration for the conditioning at play in her own thought process.
Sexual attraction and racist sentiment are not mutually exclusive, Michelle. In fact, they often get along quite well.