Should We Forgive Mark Wahlberg?: A Discussion of the Actor’s Questionable Past and Racist Behaviors

3 min read

Izabella Bautista ’26

Contributing Writer

Mark Wahlberg rose to fame by modeling for Calvin Klein in 1992, but no one really knows that just six years before, he was charged for spending two days harassing a group of Black children by yelling racial slurs and throwing bricks at them. Two years later, in 1988, he spent forty-five days in jail for assaulting two Vietnamese men while high on the drug PCP. He assaulted a man named Thanh Lam by yelling racial slurs at him while beating him unconscious with a stick, and, later that day, while running from the police, he punched army veteran Johnny Trinh in the eye, eventually being caught by the police. Wahlberg confessed to the police, using racial slurs to describe both men. For these two crimes, Wahlberg was sentenced to two years in jail but only served forty-five days. Additionally, in 2014, he requested that he be pardoned from his hate crime so that it would be cleared from his record. He dropped this request in 2016 after criticism. 

More recently, Wahlberg has become a famous actor, starring in many movies such as the franchises Ted and Daddy’s Home and even opening up his chain fast food restaurant with his brother, Wahlburgers. How does someone like this grow so fast into Hollywood, even becoming a household name? It’s easy! Hollywood has an eagerness to forgive white men at the expense of using people of color. This can be seen in the recent SAG awards, where Wahlberg controversially presented an award to the predominantly Asian cast of Everything Everywhere all at Once.

In Hollywood, people of color are often used as a token of forgiveness for white people. Where there is one pass, another will follow. Since Wahlberg couldn’t technically be forgiven for his actions in the court of the law, he sure hopes to garner a sense of forgiveness through his public image. Why must people of color become such tokens in a story for white redemption? They shouldn’t. Wahlberg has not done anything to show that he truly has “changed” other than posting to Instagram during the Black Lives Matter protests, which he received backlash for. It is also evident that the victims and their families do not forgive Wahlberg for his extremely harmful actions.

Time and time again it is with immense pressure that people of color are supposed to “forgive and forget” because “it was thirty years ago,” but this doesn’t erase the pain and trauma that is consistently handed to our communities. It’s not easy to “forgive and forget” when Hollywood has forgotten about the communities left harmed and scared. It is not easy to “forgive and forget” when you’re left to acclimate back to normal life, while Hollywood has boosted the success of many harmful people. It is not easy to just “forgive and forget” especially when Hollywood has seemingly forgiven the white person for you. Mark Wahlberg’s continual success is just one example of Hollywood’s eagerness to forgive white men. 

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