Wednesday, December 10, 2014

'being drunk doesn't turn you racist,' and other problems with mark wahlberg's pardon petition.

I've jumped on my soapbox so many times over the last month that I've broken it, hence the brief hiatus in rant-y, vent-y blogging. But I've also been severely procrastinating on a couple of other projects, and after a brief chat with my friend/former roommate/sister-in-outrage Andrea about this topic, I had to extract the thoughts from my brain.

In 1988, actor Mark Wahlberg brutally assaulted two Asian men, partially blinding one of them. The Daily Beast describes the incident and arrest:
Wahlberg yelled at Lam, calling him “a Vietnam fucking shit,” and then hit him in the head with the stick. Lam was knocked out cold. 
Wahlberg fled from the scene and approached a bystander, Hoa Trinh, also Vietnamese. He told him, “Police coming, police coming, let me hide,” and after the cop car passed by, punched Trinh in the eye, rendering him partially blind. Trinh eventually fingered Wahlberg, and the cops arrested him. 
Later that evening, Boston police brought Wahlberg back to the scene of the crime where, in the presence of two officers, he looked at Lam and stated, “You don’t have to let him identify me, I’ll tell you now that’s the mother-fucker whose head I split open.” He also proceeded to shout a bunch of racial epithets about “gooks” and “slant-eyed gooks.”
Wahlberg was a teenager at the time, tried as an adult, and sentenced to two years in jail. He served 45 days.

That's problematic, don't you think? 45 days is less than two months. Less than two months for half-blinding a man. Less than two months for what can only be classified as a hate crime. The phrase "slant-eyed gooks" doesn't come out of thin air, after all. It's a phrase you learn and use out of a dark place.

Wahlberg's explanation was that he was under the influence of alcohol and narcotics, but as Andrea noted earlier: being drunk doesn't turn you racist, nor is it an excuse for racism. Being racist while drunk is not a separate kind of racism.

As Jeff Yang points out, "If a black, Hispanic or Asian youth under the influence of drugs and alcohol had put out a white man's eye while trying to rob his store, it's inconceivable that he would have been let off with such a light sentence; unlikely that he would have the sense of unvarnished privilege that is driving Wahlberg's desire for a whitewashing of his record, if you'll pardon the pun."

The 1988 incident wasn't the first time race had motivated an attack by Wahlberg: two years before that, Wahlberg and his friends were accused of chasing and throwing rocks at black schoolchildren, and using the n-word repeatedly in their pursuit.

The timing of Wahlberg's petition, as many have noted, is in large part due to a desire to expand his restaurant chain. Having a criminal record would be difficult to obtain the necessary licenses to do so in some states.

Look, I get that he isn't the same person he was at 15 or 16, and he's listed several contributions to the community in his petition for pardon that shows he's changed. But to not reach out to the individuals he's harmed? To never really address the racial nature of his crimes? Wahlberg shouldn't get a pardon because fame helped him pave a path toward a better life. His ability, and privilege, to reinvent himself should not be done without some acknowledgement that his violent past includes several incidents of racism. He needs to do a lot more to show he's no longer the person he once was.

No comments:

Post a Comment