Canadian PM and self-proclaimed champion of diversity Justin Trudeau wore full brownface makeup for an Arabian Nights-themed party at the high-end private school where he taught in Vancouver, but he insists he’s not racist.
A photograph of a grinning 29-year-old Trudeau in a turban, brown makeup on his face, neck and hands, and billowing white robe surfaced earlier this month in a yearbook from West Point Grey Academy, the ultra-high-end private school where the PM taught. Vancouver businessman Michael Adamson reportedly gave the yearbook to Time magazine after spotting the photo in July, believing “it should be made public.”
“I have worked all my life to fight against racism and intolerance,” Trudeau protested in a groveling press conference Wednesday night, begging for Canadians’ forgiveness. “It was a dumb thing to do. I’m disappointed in myself, I’m pissed off at myself for having done it,” Trudeau repeated over and over. “I made a mistake in the past and I’m taking responsibility for it,” he self-flagellated bilingually, as reporters hinted he should resign.
Trudeau acknowledged that it was racist to wear blackface, but through some logical gymnastics absolved himself of racism, insisting that he had fought for minorities his entire career and would continue to do so, should Canadians decide to give him (another) chance. He wouldn’t consider resigning, because nobody’s perfect, and if not him, who would be left to fight for diversity?
Trudeau’s Liberal Party finally confirmed it was him in the photo earlier on Wednesday, via media relations head Zita Astravas. “It was a photo taken while he was teaching in Vancouver, at the school’s annual dinner which had a costume theme of ‘Arabian Nights,’” she told Time. “He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin.” He was the only person at the party photographed wearing blackface.
The Canadian PM, who launched his reelection campaign earlier this month, has already been dogged by allegations he is insensitive to the needs of ethnic minorities, accused of performing superficial acts of virtue signaling to camouflage his real aims. Earlier this summer, he declared a national climate emergency the day before green lighting a controversial pipeline expansion that would have an outsize negative impact on the First Nations peoples living in its path, in addition to the “significant adverse environmental effects” Canada’s own National Energy Board found. He was forced to retract an invitation to asylum-seekers rejected by the US as they began streaming into Canada by the thousands, overburdening the country’s resources in response to his public show of tolerance-on-steroids.
Trudeau is only the latest of many politicians to be ambushed by a blackface photo from his past. Belgium’s Didier Reynders, recently nominated EU Commissioner for Justice, sported blackface as recently as 2015, a fact which is coming back to haunt him as he prepares for his new role. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam appeared in a yearbook photo showing two men, one in blackface and one in KKK attire, but refused to acknowledge the photo was of him. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey underwent the pageantry of apology for merely being described as wearing blackface in a five-decade-old radio interview.
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