Justin Trudeau's Racism Scandal Just Got Worse

Video emerges of a 3rd instance of the Canadian prime minister darkening his skin
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2019 10:00 AM CDT
Justin Trudeau's Racism Scandal Just Got Worse
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks to reporters on his campaign plane in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday.   (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

Justin Trudeau's trouble is only getting worse. Canada's Global News is out with video showing the prime minister in blackface—the third example to emerge in the last day of Trudeau darkening his skin as part of a costume. Trudeau apologized Wednesday when the first two old images emerged, but the political bombshell has thrown his re-election campaign into turmoil. Details:

  • Latest case: The clip from the early 1990s shows Trudeau in blackface and goofing around in front of a camera, though it's not clear exactly when or where it was shot. However, it appears to be at a different time and place from the previous two instances, per Global News. A senior member of Trudeau's campaign confirmed it was him.
  • The first two: Trudeau dressed up as Aladdin in brownface at the school where he was teaching in 2001, when he was 29. Time broke that story by publishing the photo. Another image emerged of Trudeau in high school wearing blackface while performing as Harry Belafonte.

  • Now what? Trudeau has begun calling supporters to apologize, though he dodged questions on whether he should resign. His main rival in the Oct. 21 election, the Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, called Trudeau "not fit to govern." The race was "neck and neck" before the scandal, notes Reuters. Trudeau's Liberal Party has temporarily halted campaigning, reports the CBC.
  • Other incident: Trudeau made headlines earlier this year when he traveled to India and wore traditional garb, including gold-embroidered garments and pointy red silk shoes, notes the New York Times. "Though intended as a gesture of respect for Indian culture, it was widely seen in Canada as a cringe-inducing game of dress-up," per the newspaper.
  • Tough question: Trudeau offered a full, unqualified apology when the Aladdin and high school incidents emerged and agreed his behavior was offensive. The Canadian Press notes that the "only flash of frustration" Trudeau showed was when reporters asked him what he'd tell his children. “I'm going to have a conversation with them tomorrow morning before they go to school about taking responsibility for mistakes we make, about living every day to try to be a better person, and recognizing that when you make mistakes, you have to take responsibility for it," he said.
  • Demographics: Canada has a large population of people of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent, notes the Times. Trudeau's Liberal Party is competing with the New Democratic Party for left-leaning voters, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is Sikh. "I don't really know how to react," says Singh, the first person from an ethnic minority to lead one of the nation's major parties. "This is someone who so casually mocked the reality for so many people and has hurt a lot of Canadians with this."
  • Brownface, blackface: Both terms are being thrown around to describe Trudeau's behavior. At CNN, Kendall Trammell says those terms and others such as redface and yellowface all boil down to the same offensive thing—"using someone's skin tone as a costume."
Before this week, Trudeau's biggest political controversy involved accusations that he improperly pressured an underling to go easy on a well-connected company under investigation. (More Justin Trudeau stories.)

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