Responding to Trudeau’s brownface scandal


Illustration by Lanh Tran

Nidhi Jaltare, Columnist

Trump was elected when I was applying to colleges in America. Everyone around me was complaining about how much they regretted not applying to a school in Canada instead. This was just an angry, spontaneous reaction caused by ignorance. It was rooted in the lack of attention that racism in Canada gets. Canada is not even close to perfect. 

A picture from 2001 of Justin Trudeau in brownface, dressed up as Aladdin, recently resurfaced. He was at a party that was themed “Arabian Nights.” However, he was not just dressed up–he was made up as a brown person from head to toe. It seems like no one else in the picture was unaware and ignorant enough to wear brownface and try to look like an Arab.

It is really sad, but kind of funny the amount of effort someone would put into mocking a different race. This is not the first time this has happened, though. Trudeau himself said, “I am weary of being definitive about this because of the recent pictures that came out, I had not remembered.” Imagine buying so much makeup for the sole purpose of mockery. I can barely afford enough for my face. 

Not only was he 29, but he was also a teacher when he had the audacity to mock the suffering of minorities for years. His actions influenced the people around him, set a terrible example for his students and more importantly, caused pain to his students of color. Trudeau says he was unaware that this was an act of racism, but understands it now. His apology made everything about him. He managed to invalidate the pain people felt again. Only this time, it was in a sentence instead of a costume.

Illustration by Lanh Tran

How do you study at such prestigious institutions for years without realizing the history of blackface? Was the word minstrel not brought up at all during his entire education in these privileged institutions? This was 2001. People knew. “I didn’t know” is simply not a valid apology. Honestly, it is barely an apology. It is starting to seem like he had to have been massively messed up in his past to even think about applying for office. This mockery emphasizes the distance between white people and people of color–all for fun, for laughter. 

Does this white man really want to leave all of his white privilege behind and be a person of color? Not for a minute would someone want to do that.

What really got to me were the social media comments saying, “I don’t think this is offensive. It’s not that bad.” This statement is always used to undermine our feelings and makes everything about the spectator instead of the victim of racism. This is not about you; this is about the pain these situations cause. Everything does not have to be about your opinion. Your feelings stem from reading a five-minute news article. Someone else’s pain stems from the racism they have experienced for years and continue to endure. Stop making oppression about your random impulsive and ignorant thoughts. Confront your subconscious racism. We need to do that and so do Canadians. Unfortunately, America has set such a low bar for what racism is that this situation is not even bad enough to anger anyone. That’s how much we have normalized mental torment and racism. 

The world needs to focus on empathy instead of focusing on making people feel like their emotions are not valid.