After the “brownface” photo of Trudeau was published yesterday, a spokesman said the Prime Minister would address the issue later in the day. I’m not sure exactly what I imagined that would look like but it wasn’t this press availability on an airplane. I guess the subtext here is that Trudeau isn’t letting this interrupt his campaign schedule. He’s got places to go so this apology will have to be handled on the way to those other priorities.
As for the content of his apology, he mostly seems to repeat a handful of lines about ten times, in both English and French: He’s sorry. He should have known better. What he did was racist. Etc. At one point a reporter asked if he’d ever done this any other time and Trudeau replied, “When I was in high school I dressed up for a talent show and sang “Day-O” with make-up on.” A photo of Trudeau dressed as Harry Belafonte has now surfaced.
Justin Trudeau in blackface. pic.twitter.com/5WigbaF49U
— Stephen Taylor (@stephen_taylor) September 19, 2019
Also, another photo from the 2001 party has turned up:
There is a second photo of Justin Trudeau in brownface, from the same 2001 incident. This is from the school’s newsletter (he was a teacher at the time) https://t.co/Thg7mzVcJe pic.twitter.com/YZMda2hpkU
— Katie Simpson (@CBCKatie) September 19, 2019
As Ed has pointed out earlier, a third photo has also surfaced and been confirmed so it seems Trudeau left out at least one example in his apology. I wonder how many more there are.
Perhaps the best question asked yesterday came from a reporter who pointed out that Trudeau’s campaign has been “hammering the conservatives” for “inappropriate” posts on social media and has promised much more to come. “How could you credibly do something like that now, in the middle of a campaign, after what we’ve all seen tonight?” he asked.
Trudeau replied, “I’ve taken responsibility for it, for having made a real mistake in the past. I stand here before Canadians as I will throughout this campaign and talk about the work we have to do to make a better country together and I’m going to continue to stay focused on that and continue to work to fight intolerance and discrimination even though obviously I made a mistake in the past.”
Trudeau was also asked why he didn’t raise his own use of blackface when the issue became news surrounding the Gov. of Virginia earlier this year. “Did you think at that time ‘Geez, I’m a politician and I’ve done that, maybe I should say something?'”
Trudeau replied: “This is part of the reflections we all have to have on how we judge the mistakes that we’ve made in the past…” Um, okay, but that wasn’t the question.
Asked by another reporter, “Why didn’t you tell people sooner?” Trudeau responded, “I’m talking about it now.”
This is probably as good an answer as a progressive can give in a situation like this, i.e. the fight to defeat racism, including my own, must go on. Of course, the real question is why anyone choose someone who dressed in blackface repeatedly as their white knight on this issue. The real problem for Trudeau is that his own campaign’s attacks on the conservatives are going to ring a bit hollow now. If the standard is that Trudeau himself hasn’t been disqualified for office because he offered this self-serving apology, then anyone else caught out can do the same.
You can’t play cancel culture games when you’re begging the public not to cancel you for your own mistakes.
This CBS News report contains a bit of Trudeau’s apology and some reactions to it:
The full apology presser appears to have lasted about 10-12 minutes. The first six minutes can be seen below. Another 5-6 minutes to the end when Trudeau walks away is available here.