Canada Canada’s Surprising History of Blackface
Why wearing blackface or brownface is considered 'reprehensible'
Dressing in blackface or brownface is a hurtful, racist and offensive act that mocks, dehumanizes and belittles other cultures while feeding into some of the worst stereotypes of people of colour, community leaders and experts say, reacting to the actions of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Their comments follow revelations Trudeau wore brownface and a costume to an Arabian Nights-themed gala in 2001, and his admittance he wore blackface makeup while attending high school.
It is, unfortunately, not all that unusual for an American audience to learn that a politician dressed in blackface. Yet the case of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau manages to surprise.
For one thing, there’s Trudeau’s age. He is just 47, and one might expect an ambitious young man of his generation, and especially one whose father was prime minister, to be more politically savvy. Yet Trudeau was captured on film wearing face paint not once, not twice, but three times, including once on video—and that’s just what’s known so far., Trudeau wore brown makeup to an “Arabian nights” party at a private school where he taught in 2001. He also , and on another occasion, .
Trudeau addresses blackface scandal again, says he 'hurt people who thought I was an ally'
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau addressed the blackface scandal again in Winnipeg this afternoon. “This is something that I deeply, deeply regret. Darkening your face regardless of the context or the circumstances is always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface,” said Trudeau. “What I did, the choices I made, hurt people. People who thought I was an ally,” he said, adding that when he sought public office he never told anyone that he had worn blackface years earlier, because he was too embarrassed. Asked if a Liberal candidate would be allowed to run if a similar photo was revealed, Trudeau said they would evaluate that based on the context.
“What I did hurt them, hurt people who shouldn’t have to face intolerance and discrimination because of their identity. This is something I deeply, deeply regret,” Trudeau said yesterday—but, astonishingly, also saidhow many times he had worn blackface.
As superficially surprising as the individual culprit is the location. While America’s history of racism is well known, Canada has often been portrayed—by residents of both countries—as a beacon of comparative progressivism, on race as well as a host of other issues. Trudeau himself has embraced and burnished this image, with high-profile apologies to indigenous peoples and, all a part of his courtship of favorable comparisons with President Donald Trump.
Justin Trudeau’s Blackface Photos Force Reckoning On Canada’s Global Image
TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carefully crafted public image as a global leader in inclusiveness and multiculturalism was swiftly shattered Wednesday night when a racist photo of him smiling in brownface and a turban went public. The 2001 photo from a prestigious Vancouver private school yearbook, shows Trudeau, then a teacher, with his hands and face painted brown at an “Arabian Nights” themed party. In short order, a second damaging image surfaced: one of Trudeau performing “Day-O” in a high school talent show wearing an afro and blackface.Then within 12 hours, a video surfaced of Trudeau, again in blackface.
But Canada has a surprisingly long and deep history with blackface. Rather than being seen as an exception to Canadian racial enlightenment, perhaps the images of Trudeau in blackface are better viewed as a microcosm of Canada’s little known past.
Over the past year, Americans have seen the governors of two states embroiled in scandals over past blackface use., the Democratic governor of Virginia, was revealed to have a blackface photo on his medical-school yearbook page in the early 1980s. (Northam initially apologized, then said he did not believe he was the person in the photo.) The state’s attorney general, the Democrat Mark Herring, also apologized for wearing blackface to a party around the same time. In August, Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey also for wearing blackface in college.
, controversies around the use of blackface on campus seem to spring up every year, a trend that begins around the turn of the 21st century. Something similar seems to have occurred in Canada. , Philip S. S. Howard, a professor at McGill University, argued that blackface was “experiencing renewed popularity in Canada,” pointing to a string of incidents over roughly the same period.
Late-Night Hosts React To Justin Trudeau’s Blackface Controversy: ‘Suck It, Canada!’
Late-night hosts share their thoughts on old surfaced photos of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing blackface. Three instances of Trudeau wearing blackface have emerged recently. This includes a video of Trudeau in a crowd in the 1990s as well as him attending an Arabian Nights gala in 2001. RELATED: Video Shows Trudeau In Blackface On Thursday night, Stephen Colbert addressed the controversy on Global's "The Late Show" with a simple, straightforward response."I just want to say... It's not us this time!" he said. "Suck it, Canada!"Justin Trudeau’s blackface and brownface photos make for the worst #tbt imaginable. pic.twitter.
Blackface, a practice that grew out of minstrel shows that caricatured people of African descent, can seem like a peculiarly American institution, but it has a long history in Canada as well—as does slavery. While Canada figures in the history of American slavery as a terminus on the Underground Railroad, enslaved Africans arrived in Canada in the early 17th century, not long after their first arrival in what is now the United States in 1619, and slavery wasn’t abolished in Canada until 1834.
Perhaps no figure illustrates the complicated connections between race, Canada, and the United States better than Calixa Lavallée. Born to a French Canadian family in Quebec, Lavallée moved to the United States in the 1850s and bounced back and forth between the two countries for years. He served as an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War; he also played in minstrel shows,, doing exaggerated impressions of African Americans. In 1880, he was commissioned to write a hymn that would become “O Canada,” the national anthem. (Later in life, he supported Quebec joining the United States. People are complicated.)
Rex Murphy: For anyone else, resignation would be unavoidable – and appropriate
Some observations, reflections and musings on the minstrelsy of a prime minister, in random sequence, and merely as they have occurred, over the past 24 hours: Well, we still have Bianca. Thank goodness. Some observations, reflections and musings on the minstrelsy of a prime minister, in random sequence, and merely as they have occurred, over the past 24 hours:
Minstrelsy took hold in Canada, just as it did in the United States, and just as in the United States, black people objected. As early as 1843, according to Cheryl Thompson, a scholar of communications at Ryerson University, black residents of Toronto petitioned the city government in vain to ban minstrel shows. Howard reports that “minstrelsy was very common throughout Canada into the 1970s,” long after minstrel showssocially taboo—not to say extinct—in the United States. (Bashir Mohamed a few examples of 20th-century shows in Canada.)
Some scholars and journaliststhat Canada whitewashes its history on race, from its mistreatment of indigenous peoples to slavery to later racism like these minstrel shows, adopting an image of moving past race that stands (supposedly) in contrast to its uncouth southern neighbor. “Canadian postracialism is characterized by its roots in a national claim to egalitarianism that is partly forged through an ostensible contrast to American racism,” Howard writes.
It’s not yet clear what political effect the Trudeau photos might have, with elections scheduled next month. Trudeau has carefully set himself up as an alternative to, both in rhetoric and practice. But, as the incident shows, the reluctance to tackle racism may not provide quite as much of a contrast between the United States and Canada as it appeared to.
Adam: Here's why Trudeau is getting the benefit of the doubt on blackface .
Justin Trudeau has been justifiably condemned for wearing blackface. He clearly did wrong and should have known better. For any candidate other than party leader, this would be a firing offence. When Trudeau wore a blackface 18 years ago as an adult, it was as offensive then as it is today. Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.
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