I’ve been writing about, and researching – and opposing – racism for more than thirty years. And make no mistake: blackface isn’t funny.
Ask Megyn Kelly. A year ago, the former Fox News star was filming a segment about Halloween costumes and “political correctness.” Someone asked whether it was acceptable for a white person to smear black makeup all over their face and pretend to be black.
Here’s what Kelly said: “But what is racist? Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween… Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
There was a massive backlash. Kelly apologized. But her show was cancelled not long afterwards.
Just this year, Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, faced demands that she resign because audio of a skit emerged from when she was in college – even though the person in blackface was her then-fiance. Not her.
Ivey still apologized.
Also this year: upscale fashion brand Gucci fired its global head of diversity because he hadn’t stopped a “balaclava jumper” from going on sale. The jumper featured an image that resembled blackface.
In Canada, we’ve experienced blackface backlash, too. Theatre impresario Robert Lepage faced protests when one of his plays apparently contained scenes that recalled blackface. Some University of Montreal students wore blackface to “pay tribute” to champion runner Usain Bolt. The university was forced to apologize for that.
So why is blackface so controversial? Why is what Justin Trudeau has done so wrong?
Because blackface is literally about white people caricaturing black people. It recalls the era when blacks were referred to as “darkies” and “coons.” It was something popularized in minstrel shows to suggest that blacks were inferior to whites. That they were stupider. That they were deserving of derision and mockery.
David Leonard, a professor at Washington State University, and an expert on the manifestations of racism, says this: “It’s an assertion of power and control. It allows a society to routinely and historically imagine African Americans as not fully human. It serves to rationalize violence and segregation.”
Is Justin Trudeau racist?
Well, his appalling treatment of a proud indigenous woman, Jody Wilson-Raybould, didn’t exactly suggest Trudeau was nearly as tolerant as he regularly claims to be. When asked about Donald Trump’s suggestion that four Democratic politicians “go back” to the “crime infested places” they came from, Justin Trudeau refused to say Trump’s racist statements were in fact racist.
Said Trudeau: “Canadians and indeed people around the world know exactly what I think about those particular comments.”
Do we really?
After Canadians have looked at that shocking photo of the Liberal prime minister mocking and denigrating black people – after the embarrassment and shame he has now brought on Canada internationally – it’s hard to know exactly what Justin Trudeau was thinking. Or if he thinks at all.
At the end of this shocking revelation, we are left with one thought: this is not the face of a prime minister.
Like Megyn Kelly, Justin Trudeau’s little show needs to be cancelled, once and for all.
Warren Kinsella is a Sun columnist and author of five award-winning books on racism.