What were you doing when you were 29? Working? Buying a condo? Getting married? Dressing up in blackface and brownface at parties?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
As Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau tries to extricate himself from an increasingly inextricable situation, one question looms large: how could a grown man, an educated man who sought to educate others, possibly think this was OK?
In his late-night press conference aboard the Liberal campaign plane, Trudeau offered an explanation, and an apology.
“In 2001, when I was a teacher in Vancouver, I attended a gala. The theme was Arabian Nights. I dressed up in an Aladdin costume and put makeup on. I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better, but I didn’t and I’m really sorry,” Trudeau said.
“I take responsibility for my decision to do that. … It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do and I am deeply sorry.”
In other words, he didn’t mean to be racist, he was just too ignorant to realize he was being racist. Apparently the rest of the faculty at West Point Grey Academy weren’t too upset by his choice of costume, either, as they cheerfully posed with him and then plastered the photo in the school yearbook. So maybe he thought that made it OK; maybe he never gave it another thought at all.
But lots of people are thinking about it now, ever since TIME magazine posted the offending photo on its website. And since then, Trudeau’s problems have multiplied. When asked whether this was the only time he donned blackface, Trudeau initially admitted that he performed the Jamaican song Day O “wearing makeup” at a high school talent show; a photo immediately surfaced of him as a teenager with a darkened face and wearing what appears to be an afro wig.
But within 12 hours another image appeared, a video of Trudeau in blackface raising his arms and mugging for the camera. It is not clear where or when this video was taken, but it proves that either Trudeau has a serious case of amnesia, or is, quite simply, lying.
Trudeau addressed the latest revelation in a campaign stop in Winnipeg, where he apologized again. “This is something I deeply, deeply regret,” he intoned, affirming that wearing blackface is “always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface. I should’ve understood it then, and I should have never done it.”
He added, “I have dedicated my service to Canada to combat intolerance and racism whenever I can.”
WATCH BELOW: Justin Trudeau addresses racist makeup controversy
Trudeau could not, however, promise that the three episodes were the only ones. Which raises other questions. Apart from their inherent racism, these episodes reveal a side of Trudeau that is, frankly, weird. Why this penchant for blackface and brownface? What type of person engages in this kind of behaviour once, twice, three or possibly more times? And as an adult?
The bizarre nature of the whole situation might be as damaging to his carefully curated image of a woke, sophisticated-yet-approachable politician and family man as the racism factor.
It also damages the Liberals’ strategy of digging up dirt on Conservative candidates to derail the Tories’ message and depict them as racist and/or homophobic Neanderthals. The Liberals had been calling all week for the firing of various Conservative candidates whom they revealed to have posted intolerant messages on social media or have questionable choices in friends.
Good luck with that plan, now that the Liberal leader has admitted to being “more enthusiastic about costumes than is sometimes appropriate.”
But it’s not all good news for the Tories, since in defending the Tory candidates, Scheer actually gave Trudeau an out.
“As long as someone takes responsibility for what they’ve said,” Scheer proffered on Sept. 15, before the Trudeau controversy broke, “and addresses the fact that in 2019 some things that may have been said in the past are inappropriate today, that if anything that they’ve ever said in the past caused any type of hurt or disrespect to one community or another and have apologized for that, I accept that. … I accept the fact that people make mistakes in the past and can own up to that and accept that.”
Which is basically what Trudeau has done. Scheer must be kicking himself now that he didn’t turf at least one of his candidates, if only to set some kind of bar below which Trudeau would clearly have fallen.
So the PM’s not going anywhere, die-hard Liberals are standing by their man on Twitter, and voters are left scratching their heads. Ignorant, racist, strange, and out of touch. Perhaps the Liberals need a better candidate vetting process, starting at the top.
Tasha Kheiriddin is the founder and CEO of Ellipsum Communications and a Global News contributor.