Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s old pictures and a video suggesting that he painted himself brown and black have devastated all of us.
It hurts us more to know that someone who has always stood up for immigrants and the racialized communities had such a disturbing past when he not only acted silly, but was insensitive toward the feelings of minorities of colour whose realities are much more horrific than those of white privileged society.
The good thing is that he has now apologized and has acknowledged that he did something racist.
All hell broke out when the first picture of him appeared with brown face and a turban from a party that was held in 2001. Trudeau, who was a teacher back then, was participating in a fundraising event at a Vancouver school and was dressed up like Aladdin. Being a teacher and someone whose father, the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, had opened doors for immigrants as a prime minister, he should have known that it is wrong to dress up like that.
However, the way this whole episode is being blown out of proportion needs to be challenged. Why has this story come out now and not in 2015, when Trudeau first became prime minister?
The only explanation is that his opponents, especially the right-wing Conservatives and People’s Party of Canada, are already facing tough questions about their ties with white nationalists and their regressive views on immigration, inclusion, sexual orientation, and abortion.
Since Trudeau and his Liberal party have been aggressively taking on them for trying to polarize the white majority, they are seeking to drive political mileage out of this issue.
Others, including New Democrats, are trying to put Trudeau and the right-wing politicians who are outright racists in the same basket without stepping back to differentiate between conscious acts of racism and racism at a subconscious level.
This is not to defend the actions of Trudeau, but one need to acknowledge that he has already been under constant attack from far-right groups and racists who are not pleased with his liberal immigration policies and commitment to social justice.
It is for this reason that he is also disliked by the supporters of right-wing political leaders across the world such as U.S. president Donald Trump and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Their apologists here in Canada are trying to prey upon Trudeau for the so-called brownface bombshell—even with all that their beloved leaders are up to.
Of course, Trudeau has failed on several fronts, like giving a green light to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, trampling the concerns of indigenous population. He also let an Indigenous cabinet minister go to safeguard the interest of a corporation charged with corruption offences.
We must make him accountable for that, but to call him racist is an overstatement.
Like it or not, when we opened lines on this issue at Spice Radio where I work as a newscaster and talk-show host, most brown-skinned callers of South Asian origin said that Trudeau should be forgiven. They also said that all parties need to focus on real issues rather than making a big deal out of something so trivial.
In fact, a well-known antiracism activist and a long-time New Democrat, Charanpal Gill, has come to Trudeau’s rescue under these difficult times. Gill, who is a South Asian, says that he feels that Trudeau has made a sincere apology and has done a lot for visible minorities.
Lastly, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has described the actions of Trudeau as mockery and racism and has said that he is “unfit for office”.
Wow, who is talking? Scheer should first explain his ties with right-wing media groups and those spewing venom against LGBTQ community and immigrants.
His attempt to counterweight his own actions with those of Trudeau are not going to help. If Trudeau is unfit to for office, then Scheer is unfit for politics unless he comes clean on his past association with bigots.
It is Scheer who owes us answers for staying away from Pride parades whereas Trudeau has made a history by participating in them.
I have a feeling that the Conservative are trying to silence Trudeau by bringing up the issue of brownfacing in the past. Under these circumstances, Trudeau and his team must not buckle down and keep exposing the real colours of their political rivals.
Voters can see the difference between apples and oranges and hopefully they are going to vote wisely to keep the real racists out of power on October 21.
Ironically, this debate has at least forced Canadians to look hard at themselves in the mirror and accept that white privilege and racism are deeply embedded in our society.
We cannot just blame our neighbours south of the border for being racists in the Trump era when we have them among us here in a supposedly much more open and diverse nation.