Mahershala Ali: ‘It wasn’t appropriate for Viggo to say the n-word’

AFI Fest 2018 Presented by Audi - Gala Screening of 'Green Book' - Arrivals

Here are some (awkward) photos of Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali at the AFI Fest premiere of their film, Green Book. I think the promotion was always going to be a bit awkward, mostly because of Viggo and his general vibe. But then Viggo dropped the n-word during a panel discussion last week, as he sat beside Mahershala, and now I don’t even think that “awkward” even covers it. As I said, I feel sorry for Mahershala – it must suck so badly for him that he’ll probably have to spend the next few months talking about Viggo’s mistake and Viggo’s apology and what he thinks of Viggo. Mahershala gave us a preview – he issued a statement after Viggo issued his public apology for saying the n-word:

Ali told PEOPLE in a statement, “However well-intentioned or intellectual the conversation may have been, it wasn’t appropriate for Viggo to say the n-word. He had made it clear to me that he’s aware of this, and apologized profusely immediately following the Q&A with Elvis Mitchell. Knowing his intention was to express that removing the n-word from your vocabulary doesn’t necessarily disqualify a person as a racist or participating in actions or thoughts that are bigoted, I can accept and embrace his apology.”

Ali continued, “An excellent and poignant thought was unfortunately overshadowed by voicing the word in its fullness. Which for me, is always hurtful. The use of the word in the black community has long been debated, and its usage should continue to be examined within the black community. The use of the word by those who aren’t black is not up for debate. The history of discrimination, slavery, pain, oppression and violence that the word has come to symbolize only causes harm to members of the black community and therefore needs to be left in the past.”

[From People]

I’ve used the word “grace” several times in describing Mahershala, and I can’t help it – he always just comes across as a man of profound grace and thoughtfulness. He acknowledged that Viggo was wrong, he accepted Viggo’s apology and he also gave a justified history lesson on the word itself. I hope people – by that I mean journalists and entertainment reporters – understand that during the promotion, the questions about this should be limited to just Viggo, and not Mahershala. Mahershala should not have to continue to give white folks history lessons and be forced into a state of grace towards his white costar.

AFI Fest 2018 Presented by Audi - Gala Screening of 'Green Book' - Arrivals

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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23 Responses to “Mahershala Ali: ‘It wasn’t appropriate for Viggo to say the n-word’”

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  1. Scarlett says:

    If you look up class in the dictionary, I bet it has Mahershala Ali’s face next to it…., what an absolutely beautiful response. I like that Viggo apologized immediately and multiple times…can’t wait to see the movie!.

  2. CharliePenn says:

    Is it hard? IS IT THAT HARD?! If a word has been used while literally killing people (like the N word and like the other word I can’t utter or bear, f****t), then just don’t say it. The N word was the last word a lot of black folks heard as they were murdered throughout our nations gross and dark history. It has been used to ruin lives. It is hate. It is hurt. I can’t say it. I’m white and I would never ever say it. I have heard it yelled out of a truck at black people and in that moment felt like I was in hell. Some words really do have so much behind them that they must be struck down.
    As far as black people saying it, I as a white person have nothing to add to that conversation and it’s not for me to chime in. But I know it sure as hell doesn’t make it OK for me or anyone else white to use.

    Just… it’s not that hard people. Keep hate words out of your mouth.

  3. Miss M says:

    “I think the promotion was always going to be a bit awkward, mostly because of Viggo and his general vibe.”

    I do not understand this comment at all. Viggo is great at promoting his work, very humble and down – to – Earth from I recall when he received an award at Coolidge Corner cinema and spent a couple of days speaking to the audiences.
    I told this story to you and CB via email along with photos I took up close back then…

    I genuinely believe he made a mistake and apologized. It seems he thought it was OK to pronounce thhe word in the context of the film and answering about the film. It was not OK and he knows now. Why this site is so hellbent to push and associate him to a negative image/behavior?! For clicks?!

    Mahershala is darling and graceful.

    • Roux says:

      As a mixed race person, I’ve had white people say the N word to me, almost always without any bad intent. I think they’re naive but not bad people. They just don’t understand the history. To be honest, with the black community dropping it so often, the original slur seems to be lost on the younger generations. Black people make it seem cool and somehow even friendly (for example my n****). Personally I think it’s a word which should be removed entirely because of the history, regardless of how it may have been reinvented. I don’t think someone like Viggo should be vilified over a misjudgement like this. There is a big difference between saying a word with hate and misjudgement. Especially when it’s followed up with such a sincere apology.

      • Darla says:

        I feel it should be removed completely as well Roux. But I am white so I do get that it’s not up to me, and my opinion doesn’t matter and shouldn’t matter. I personally would prefer to never heard the damned word again.

      • Yup, Me says:

        I love and absolutely agree with Mahershala’s point- it’s usage within Black communities is for Black communities to discuss and navigate. Those outside of Black communities should mind their own business and keep it out of their mouths. That seems like a very clear statement and distinction.

      • Gigi La Moore says:

        As a mixed race person, you should know better than to generalize. It should be “some black people” not “black people”. I have been black for 46 years and was not brought up by my mom and dad to use that word. It wasn’t used in our house and no black person I associate uses it. Please do not spread the false narrative that black people are sitting around saying the”N” word all the time.

      • Lolalulu says:

        My ten year old daughter knows to NEVER use that word (along with several others). It’s not that difficult! All it took was explaining it to her once (and then I will occasionally bring it up again, just bc repetition reinforces the message).

        The evil origin of the word aside (bc honestly, how many more times does this need to be explained to grown adults), I hate the fact that Viggo stole focus of the entire conversation. Arguably, he stole focus for the film’s promotion as whole. And now Mahershala has to share the brunt of the work of smoothing everything over.

        If Viggo can’t be intelligent and thoughtful enough to not use that word, then he isn’t mentally equipped to sit up there and try to make profound statements have the culture of racism. Just sit there and smile and let Mahershala do the talking.

    • Gigi La Moore says:

      I agree with you completely. Speaking as 1 black woman, Viggo was wrong, apologized and Mahershala accepted his apology. Sometimes, it just needs to be a simple as that. I personally don’t want anyone to use it, black people included.

    • Mash says:

      this site doesnt listen and has its own narrative….take what you can get

  4. Nev says:

    Your last sentence sums it up. Geez.
    He is suppose to be basking in this moment and now it’s spoiled. Ugh.

  5. Renee2 says:

    You know, I am looking at these photos of Viggo and he looks contrite and at least he showed up to do his job like a big boy. That’s kinda all I got there.

    Marhershala Ali…he is grace personified…I hate that he was caught up in this nonsense. He goes out and conducts himself with dignity and repose and again, has to be a million times better and so careful about what he says publicly…and Viggo can sit at a press conference and try to work something out in real time that he’s had the luxury to not have had to think about beforehand is beyond frustrating.

  6. Magdalin says:

    This is truly unfortunate, but I hope that the situation can be used as a good reminder and example of never getting too comfortable about using that word. I love that Mahershala’s statement noted that regardless of the intellectual nature of its use, or however well-intentioned, it’s just not okay. BUT – Viggo figured that out and owned it and apologized. It doesn’t take it away, but it also shows that if someone acknowledges their mistake, we can learn from it and use it as an example to move forward. If Mahershala can accept Viggo’s apology, everyone else can too. And I bet you Viggo, and a bunch of other people now, will never, ever use that word again.

  7. Claire Voyant says:

    My husband is white and he knows better. People should just know better.

    • Miss M says:

      But when some of us dont know better, those of us who do can use the opportunity as a teaching moment. We can all grow from our mistakes. But sometimes we should be given the opportunity to grow. Villifying someone for all eternity is not the answer.

  8. anna2222222 says:

    Mahershala does show grace but God I wish he didn’t have to. I wish his conversations were about his craft and his character and his future instead of the conversation being about his well meaning costar making a bad choice. Viggo will be fine, any reasonable person knows he did not intend to cause harm and he has apologized will (I hope) not make that mistake again, but I just wish the story was about Mahershala and his talent instead of Viggo or La La Land or omg his name is hard to pronounce.

  9. Sam says:

    Let’s move on. Context is important here, he said it and he apologised. I am a black woman and I understand that nobody should use the N word, but context is also very important.

  10. Reef says:

    Look at this KING! I side-eyed tf out of some of the responses in the last post – especially considering what the movie is about and what the Green Book is. Good to know there are some people out there that get it and aren’t willingly to excuse it because [insert BS].

  11. CairinaCat says:

    I’m white and I will never say the n word, it’s just not a part of my vocabulary.
    My older son (22) would never say it, my younger son (13) better not ever say it.
    I lecture all the time on things like the n word, f-g, and slurs against women.
    Because my younger son does listen to music that has it and watches YouTube that has it.
    And hears people saying it over Xbox.
    I’m trying to ingrain in him that just because we hear something doesn’t make it ok for us to say.
    That words have a lot of power and they do hurt people. And I explain why they hurt people and the history.

    There is a new Doctor Who episode on Rosa Parks I had him watch, I thought it gave a good look at the fear and wrongness POC endured then and now in their everyday living.

  12. Veronica S. says:

    Something white people need to think more about our actions is how easily we can degrade POC by reducing them to their skin. Ali deserves better than be the black man speaking for the whole.

  13. TQ says:

    Mahershala is a prince among men and a cut above the rest. He’s so thoughtful whenever he speaks. I have such a crush.

  14. Starkiller says:

    Mahershala looks GOOD. Take note gents, this is how you wear a suit.

    On a completely superficial note, WTF happened to Viggo? My god, to think I once thought this was an attractive male…he looks like a mismatched slob and he looks pregnant.