Is it racist to show up at a party with a painted blackface? Yes.
Was it racist in 2001? Yup.
Are pictures of a painted blackface at a costume party befitting of a prime minister?
No. They are cringeworthy.
Should the 29-year-old Justin Trudeau have known better than to show up at a party in 2001 with his face painted black or brown, even if the theme was Arabian Nights?
I would say yes, he should have known better then.
Do these pictures mean that he is a racist? Not necessarily.
I’m not here to defend Justin Trudeau. He should regret doing that and — to quote the prime minister himself — he should be “pissed off” at himself.
It is embarrassing for him, and for the entire country.
The images of him painted with blackface are jarring and hurtful to people who understand racism from experience and to anyone who opposes racism.
I do think that a lot of the smoke and noise around this stink bomb obscure the things we ought to be focusing on.
But this is politics and we are in the middle of an election.
These are potent images that get burned into the memory.
They activate the salivary glands of partisan election dogs and media craving that juicy “gotcha!” moment.
Trudeau is the prime minister who — more than any other — has championed the causes of inclusion and diversity.
(Yes, we are making judgments on something that happened 18 years ago using a lens of today, when there is less tolerance for things like blackface. But he should have known better then, too. 2001 wasn’t Alabama in the 1930s.)
So, now we see Captain Inclusion and Mr. Diversity with a blackened face at a party in 2001.
So, does this make him a hypocrite or a reformed racist? Some choice, for someone running for prime minister.
He is now apologizing and regretting, while the political dogs are turning this hurtful image into their dinner.
Let’s make no mistake. Racism is a problem, here in Nova Scotia and in Canada. It shows up in metrics of poverty, street checks, prison populations and the children in state care.
Racism is also a barrier to entry for people who want to come to this country from other places. Immigration is absolutely necessary in places like Nova Scotia, and Canada, to replace the workers and taxpayers who are leaving the workforce.
But if this election is about racism, then make it so. Let’s have politicians talking about policies to eradicate racism.
But that is not what this is really about. Is it?
And what about those pictures and video? Where did they come from? Why did one of them end up in Time magazine, of all places? Why now?
Surely a Canadian news outlet would have been a more likely recipient for the first picture.
To find the answer, go to the source. The video was provided to Global News by the Conservatives, after the first picture appeared in Time.
It occurs to me that the first picture could have been a politically timed release by Liberals who — if they knew about the video — decided to lance the boil now rather than wait for the Conservatives to release the video the day before the election.
That tactic would force the hand of anyone with pictures like this.
I don’t necessarily believe that someone as politically astute as Trudeau would just forget about these pictures, despite his claims.
And that takes us back to the problem of authenticity.
This episode will be remembered and it will damage Trudeau, but I don’t know if it will change the way people are going to vote.
Trudeau’s enemies will use it against him and supporters will accept the apologies and move on — unless more such pictures come out of the woodwork.
- Trudeau says he's setting up a call with Jagmeet Singh to personally apologize for brownface scandal
- Trudeau blackface controversy reverberates in Atlantic Canada
- JIM VIBERT: Without forgiveness, blackface controversy may be politically lethal for Trudeau
- Explainer: Why blackface (and brownface) offend
- SHACHI KURL: Who benefits most from Trudeau's self-damaging ways?