Thursday, September 19, 2019

Some Back And Forth On Justin Trudeau’s Brown/Black Face

First my email to a journalist:


I read your today’s column about this.

I have a different take wrapped in a tweet:

...3 images emerge, decades old: Trudeau in brown & black face.

He’s contrite, trims some: they all do.

The Canadian clerisy goes mad.

Spittle off frenzied tsk tsking streams down their wagging chins.

Calls for resignation abound.

Canadian moral puerility at its highest/lowest...

Then J:

Respectfully, your email misses the following important points. Firstly, Trudeau has made a career out of his anti-racist sentiments, only now to be shown up to be, if perhaps not exactly a racist, then someone who as an adult (he was 29 and a teacher when he decided to go all brownface) was remarkably tone deaf about racism-how can anyone seriously suggest (as he has) that he didn’t know when he dressed up in 2001 in brownface that doing so was something that a professed anti-racist like himself would never think of doing. Pure nonsense. Secondly, for the past few weeks, the Liberals generally and Trudeau particularly have weaponized against the Tories every controversial statement or act which any of them may have been responsible for in the past e.g. Scheer’s comments in 2005 that he was opposed to abortion which Trudeau and the Liberals went nuts about. It’s Trudeau’s hypocrisy which is enraging for an example of someone thusly enraged.

Then me back to J:

Thanks for your thoughtful, well expressed points.

I agree with your second point in principle. And if a less emoting X had tempered their obvious rage—never, for example, missing an opportunity to take an irrelevant shot with loaded language: ”—and had made the hypocrisy the focus of their piece as qualified with the recognitions among others that:
hypocrisy is a key ingredient in the life blood of Canadian politics, especially in this cultural moment of pervasive outrage;

the lapse of two decades attenuates the force of such wrong doing as attributable to Trudeau, not to omit to mention the fact of his other two instances dating to when he was in high school;

for the last two decades, as you note, he’s been, at a minimum, at the very least rhetorically unremitting in inveighing against racism;

he’s contrite and labeled what he did as racist, without contextualizing it or explaining it away or rationalizing it;

all politicians worth their salt will craft and trim their apologies/admissions using carefully selected and discriminating language and that not to understand that is naive, airy and maybe self righteous;  

then X would have written an infinitely better piece that might have had force and stern firmness rather than their over the top rectitude that betrays their hatred of Trudeau. Every so often their inclination to outrage gets the better of their journalism.

On your first point, I’m entirely unpersuaded. More, I think you’re flat wrong. To think that a decades old photo of Trudeau wearing an ancient Middle East folk tale, Arabian Nights Aladin face, and some inane blackface stuff that he did when was in high school, high school for God’s sake, mark him as effectively a racist or a quasi or closeted or semi or virtual racist is, equally respectfully, bonkers and a terrible instance of presentism. It’s the imposition of the worst of our preachy, outraged, exquisitely politically correct and o so sensitive moment on dumb shit a callow guy did when he was 29, and has doesn’t done since, just the opposite as you note, on, that is to say, those decades old images. As I said, he himself in his mea culpa called what he did racist. (I disagree with that but I’ll take him at his word.) So I think enough’s enough. Politically of course it will continue to haunt him. So goes politics: “It’s a mug’s game,” the saying is. But the clerisy, our opinion makers, our learned commentators, the Canadian intellectual class, our non political elites, you’d think they’d have the sense not make a moral mountain out of what is a moral foothill. But no. They—NOT YOU—betray a singular Canadian tendency of thriving on any opportunity to take down those in power by means of stunning disproportionality between the delict and their reaction to it. It’s pathetic and it’s sickening.

Two things more:

I read that there’s a cultural tradition or a cultural vein in Quebec of insensitivity to blackface. i don’t know much about that. I don’t use as a ground for any argument. I just note it fwiw.

And an anecdote, also fwiw: I just came back from a stint in Longos and a brown skinned guy showed me to Nathan’s Pickles. I couldn’t restrain myself. I asked him if he, maybe 25, was bothered by Trudeau’s photos. He looked at me as if I was nuts and said, paraphrase, “Not at all,” Jagmeet Singh to the histrionic, hyperbolic contrary notwithstanding. 

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