Mark Wahlberg under fire for requesting pardon amid racist unrest

Cast member Mark Wahlberg speaks to reporters in Los Angeles, Calif. on Nov. 10, 2014.
Cast member Mark Wahlberg speaks to reporters in Los Angeles, Calif. on Nov. 10, 2014.

Actor Mark Wahlberg is under fire for requesting a pardon for a prior conviction amid racial unrest following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Wahlberg, an Oscar-nominated A-List actor and producer, has requested that a 1988 arrest for an assault, which some would classify as a hate crime, be expunged by lame duck Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Deval Parick. That year, a 16-year-old Wahlberg allegedly beat Thanh Lam, a Vietnamese man in Boston, with a 5-foot stick while yelling racial slurs at him. According to The Daily Beast, Wahlberg allegedly partially blinded a second Vietnamese witness when fleeing the scene. 

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The "Ted" star was later charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a controlled substance. He served 45 days of a 90-day sentence for assault at the Deer Island House of Correction.

“I am deeply sorry for the actions that I took on the night of April 8, 1988, as well as for any lasting damage I may have caused the victims,” he wrote in his petition to the governor. “Since that time, I have dedicated myself to becoming a better person and citizen so that I can be a role model to my children and others.”

“I have not engaged in philanthropic efforts in order to make people forget about my past,” he added. “To the contrary, I want people to remember my past so that I can serve as an example of how lives can be turned around and how people can be redeemed.”

Still, some critics are saying the timing and substance of Wahlberg's request are disconcerting, with a few even arguing that it reeks of "white privilege." "Many Americans might prefer to erase the histories of white crime and violence from our collective memories, just as Wahlberg now requests that his own history of violence towards people of color be legally erased. This ability—to write history the way we choose, regardless of the facts—is a frightening example of white privilege, " writes Ben Railton for Talking Points Memo.

In a column calling for Wahlberg to "apologize to his victims," the Boston Globe unearthed another alleged incident of racially motivated violence linked to the "Entourage" producer. In 1986, a 15-year-old Wahlberg reportedly joined some white peers in the racial harassment of some local black children, hurling both rocks and racial epithets their way. At one point, someone in Wahlberg's crew said “We don’t like black n----rs in the area, so get the f--k away from the area,” according to court documents published by The Smoking Gun. Msnbc has reached out to Wahlberg's reps for comment but have not heard back at this time.

These are the actions of a minor, and many would argue that they should be weighed as such. But Railton believes the irony of Wahlberg's request, at a time like this, is almost too much to bear. "Wahlberg suffered no injuries while being apprehended by police. That’s as it should be. But given how many African-American suspects, like Brown and Garner, are wounded or killed during their encounters with police, the discrepancy is striking," wrote Railton.

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"To pardon Wahlberg would be another affirmation that the rich and the famous are treated differently from ‘regular’ people. Wahlberg has never publicly acknowledged the particular racist element of his crimes,” added the editor of The Blackstonian, Jamarhl Crawford.

The pardon request has also received added publicity because Wahlberg has new film. "The Gambler", due for release this month. Still, Gov. Patrick has not commented publicly on Wahlberg's plea for clemency.