By Elaine Magliaro
Mark Wahlberg—who was born on June 5, 1971— is a famous American actor and producer. He is also a former rapper who once worked as “a crotch-grabbing underwear model under the name ‘Marky Mark.’” According to Adrian Walker (Boston Globe), Wahlberg “would like to bury his history of terrorizing people of color in and around Savin Hill and has requested a pardon, acting under loosened guidelines put in place by Governor Deval L. Patrick. Walker said that the former “punk” from Dorchester, Massachusetts, claims that he has turned his life around.
His request would have to be taken up by the state’s Parole Board and then the Governor’s Council. Such is Wahlberg’s star power that at least one Governor’s Councilor, Mike Albano, has already declared his support for Wahlberg’s petition.
It’s interesting that Wahlberg is bothering with a pardon request because he has suffered so little professionally as a result of his awful behavior. His application claims that his rap sheet could interfere with being granted liquor licenses and his work helping “at-risk” people. But, in fact, his restaurant empire is clearly thriving and has just announced plans to expand. In addition, he has been lauded for his support of groups like the Dorchester Youth Collaborative.
In writing about Wahlberg’s pardon request, Jeff Yang (CNN) spoke about the cases of black men—including Eric Garner and Michael Brown— who were killed by white men who went unpunished. He said that in each of the cases an “ugly theme” had “been raised in defense of the perpetrators: The victims should have known better.” He added that when it came “to the actions of their white killers…the accountability hawks” suddenly fell silent.
In their eyes, accountability is apparently only for the dark-skinned (for being “uppity” or vulgar), the poor (for failing to bootstrap themselves into success), the recently immigrated (for failing to “mainstream” into American society) — and, as we’ve also seen, for women for failing to avoid sexual predators and LGBTs for being too blatant about their sexuality.
A flagrant new example of this “accountability for thee, but not for me” sensibility emerged last week, when New England Cable News reported that actor Mark Wahlberg — one of Hollywood’s most bankable leading men, who scored a staggering $16 million paycheck for his turn as a heroic father and inventor in the most recent “Transformers” movie — has petitioned Massachusetts for pardon of his brutal assaults on a pair of Vietnamese men, Tranh Lam and Hoa Trinh, while a teenager in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
The attacks were peppered with racial slurs; he called Lam a “Vietnam f*cking sh*t” before smashing him in the head with a large club and knocking him unconscious, and he punched Trinh so hard that he left him blinded in one eye. He repeatedly referred to both men as “slant-eyed gooks” while he was being arrested. Wahlberg, who was 17, was tried as an adult and served 45 days in jail for the crime.
In addition, two years prior to the violent attack on the two Vietnamese men, Wahberg was involved in another racially motivated incident. In 1986, he and some of his white friends hurled rocks at a group of “mostly black fourth-grade students on a field trip to the beach.” Wahlberg and his friends also shouted racial epithets as they chased the children down the street.
Philip Marcelo and Rodrique Ngowi (TPM) said there was a difference of opinion among the victims of that racist incident over whether Wahlberg should be granted a pardon for his crimes.
Marcelo and Ngowi:
I don’t think he should get a pardon,” [Kristyn]Atwood, now 38 and living in Decatur, Georgia, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“I don’t really care who he is. It doesn’t make him any exception. If you’re a racist, you’re always going to be a racist. And for him to want to erase it I just think it’s wrong,” she said.
Mary Belmonte, the white teacher who brought the students to the neighborhood beach that day, sees things differently. “I believe in forgiveness,” she said. “He was just a young kid — a punk — in the mean streets of Boston. He didn’t do it specifically because he was a bad kid. He was just a follower doing what the other kids were doing.”
Yang said that—in the application that he filed to the state’s Advisory Board of Pardons—Wahlberg stated that he had dedicated himself to becoming a better person and citizen so that he could “be a role model to my children and others” and that “receiving a pardon would be a formal recognition” that he was not the same person that he was when he committed the crime. Wahlberg reportedly claimed that, “despite his use of racist language, the race of the men was not a motivation for his crime, blaming instead the ‘influence of alcohol and narcotics.’” Yang said that Wahlberg “committed the assaults while seeking to steal two cases of beer from Lam’s convenience store.”
Yang said that Wahlberg got off “with a trivial 45-day sentence after battering an Asian man until he was permanently handicapped.” Now—after being awarded three gold records, $200 million in wealth and untold fame and adulation later—the wealthy actor is “seeking absolution for his crimes.” Wahlberg claims that “troubled youths will see this as an inspiration and motivation that they, too, can turn their lives around.”
Yang says this is the unwritten phrase that should follow Wahlberg’s assertion: “That is to say, so long as they’re white and their victims are not.”
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; implausible that he’d have gone on to the kind of marquee stardom that Wahlberg has obtained; 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.
Adrian Walker said that what Mark Wahlberg needs to do first is “to find every single one of his victims and apologize. (If the Globe can find them, so can he.) No hiding behind press releases or publicists. He needs to pull up to their houses, in whatever movie stars drive this week, and say, ‘I’m sorry I terrorized you. I was a horrible person then. I’ve since learned how and why to be a decent person. I’m no longer the person I’m sorry you met.’”
Walker added, “Then we can talk about the Parole Board and the Governor’s Council.”
Given how little material gain he will get from a pardon, I don’t really doubt that Wahlberg feels genuine remorse for his past. It’s the only explanation for why he would voluntarily dredge up this embarrassing history.
But pardons are a serious process, to the point that many argue that recent governors have granted too few of them. Wahlberg shouldn’t get an E-ZPass because he’s a movie star and people like his restaurants. Cleansing his record and his conscience should be hard, not as easy as writing a few checks.
Opinions Mixed on Wahlberg’s Pardon Request
What do you think? Should Mark Wahlberg be granted a pardon?
Mark Wahlberg should apologize to his victims (Boston Globe)