Canadian Brownface


Maybe Justin Trudeau, Canada’s liberal prime minister, should have said it was the light bulbs that made his face look brown. But, like our president, it’s not the lighting to blame for their appearance. It’s the goop they put on their faces.

A yearbook photo has emerged of Trudeau, a self-described feminist, and pro-immigrant liberal from Montreal, wearing blackface at an “Arabian Nights” themed costume party in 2001. Trudeau was 29 at the time and a teacher at the private school where the event was held. Time Magazine was the first to publish the photo which was taken from a school yearbook.

A school yearbook is also where photos emerged in Virginia of someone wearing blackface (I guess it’s “brownface” in Canada) standing next to someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe. It was reported that the man in blackface was Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam who apologized for the photo, then a day later claimed it wasn’t him. Though, Northam did confess to wearing blackface at a moonwalk competition when he was 25.

Trudeau didn’t squirm out an explanation from the Northam playbook, which hopefully doesn’t contain any embarrassing photos from the past. Instead, Trudeau owned it. While campaigning for reelection, he said, “This is something I shouldn’t have done many years ago. It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do, and I am deeply sorry.”

Do you know what I was doing when I was 29? I was not putting shoe polish on my face and impersonating other races. Though, when I was a teenager, I once put white makeup on my face while wearing a baseball uniform so friends and I could impersonate the Baseball Furies on Halloween. I actually wish there were photos from that. And if you don’t know what the Baseball Furies is from, then you’re just not cool. But, I digress.

What the hell is up with these white politicians putting shoe polish on their face? And, what’s up with all these school yearbooks publishing the photos? Trudeau also admitted, probably because there’s a photo out there, that he also wore blackface/brownface once in high school (I swear I’m not making this up) while performing “Day-O,” the Jamaican folk song (if I had to sing Day-O, I’d probably wear a bag over my face). I have to know if there’s a recording of this because I’ve never seen a future prime minister sing “Come, mister tally man, tally me banana.” Could it possibly be worse than Trump doing the chicken song (not really racist, but really bad) or being hit on by Rudy Giuliani in drag?

I don’t care how much he’s championed rights for racial minorities in Canada or how many Syrian refugees he’s allowed into the nation. If there’s a recording of his Day-O performance, he’s screwed. But, at least he did apologize and own it.

Here in the United States, our president (sic) doesn’t know how to apologize. He believes it’s weak. He’d rather spend a week drawing on weather reports with a sharpie and directing the National Weather Service to lie about hurricanes than say “oops.”

It’s understandable that people become more aware and sensitive when they grow older, but hopefully before they hit their 30s. Everyone was a stupid kid. And to a point, everyone was or will be a stupid 29-year-old. But, even in 2001 (which doesn’t seem that long ago when you’re 53), you’d think someone at 29 or 25 would realize just how racist it is to impersonate another race and wear shoe polish on your face. My son once dressed as Aladdin for Halloween, when he was seven. Even then, he didn’t put shoe polish on his face.

People who are a different race than you are people, not costumes. Stop dehumanizing them. My seven-year-old understood that. So, why can’t a 25 or 29-year-old? I don’t get it.

We’ll have to wait and see if Canadians forgive Trudeau for playing Arabian and Jamaican. It seems nobody here cares about Trump playing psychotic Oompa Loompa.

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