Repeatedly wearing blackface (even as a twenty-nine year old adult), Justin Trudeau put the issues of racism, privilege, empathy and morals front and centre on the Canadian and International stages. It has caused bone-rattling anger and soul-crushing disappointment within the Indo-Canadian and Black Canadian communities. His debacle is now testing Canadians’ appetite for political and race discussions as we reevaluate Mr. Trudeau’s character and assess his consequences. For a man who has always claimed to be woke and to live a woke lifestyle, this does enormous damage to his brand.
Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.
John 8:7 (KJV)
A commonly quoted verse both religiously and secularly meaning, of course, that no one is without sin. All of us are a muddled mess of good and bad, all of us have had, at one time or another, to beg for mercy and this week Mr. Trudeau has asked for our forgiveness. Let’s be perfectly clear here – the only people who have the right to grant that forgiveness are those with brown and black skin.
How do you look someone in the eye that has mocked the lived reality that I have lived – but, more importantly, what a lot of Canadians have lived?
Therein lies the crux of the matter; whether or not we are aware of it or choose to believe it, certain doors are still closed, opportunities are still lost and inclusion is still denied to people with brown (and black) skin. Still. In 2019!
As for me, I’m left with more questions than answers:
- The act, committed by an adult Mr. Trudeau, is inexcusable. The act is unforgivable – is the man? Should he be?
- If Mr. Trudeau wasn’t previously so well-liked and well-respected, would we even be having the forgiveness discussion?
- If we forgive Mr. Trudeau, do we also forgive every other politician who has worn black face or made fun of people because of their skin colour or made racist remarks?
- If not, why not – or – why are we contemplating forgiving Mr. Trudeau?
- Are we using a type of ethics accounting (offsetting entries) to excuse Mr. Trudeau’s behaviour: Do his good words and deeds (credits) cancel out his overt racism (debits)? Should they?
- Is there a path to forgiveness that doesn’t involve condoning the behaviour?
- Will forgiveness undermine the hard work and exceedingly slow progress made by leaders in the black/brown/Asian communities?
- If we forgive him, are we allowing Mr. Trudeau to continue as Prime Minister (even if it is just for four more weeks) without the burden of punishment and consequence?
- Is the damage irreparable? Has he already lost the respect of foreign leaders with whom he must partner, collaborate and negotiate?
- Crucially, is Mr. Trudeau genuinely remorseful, does he have a sincere compassion for the people he hurt?
- Has the trust and respect – the fiducia – that endeared Mr. Trudeau to those communities been hopelessly damaged?
One thing is clear – Canadians, from Beaver Creek to Cape Spear and from Cape Columbia to Pelee Island are confused, disappointed, angry and saddened by this week’s revelation. The blackface images and imagery are a stark contradiction to the squeaky-clean persona that Mr. Trudeau’s team has carefully crafted, cultivated and marketed since 2013. Now that we’ve been given a glimpse of his weakness and transgressions, Canadians must once again appraise Mr. Trudeau’s moral fibre, prudence and sincerity.
Thursday evening, a visibly subdued Mr. Trudeau said There is still a lot of work to be done. Truer words were never spoken.
’Til next time, y’all…