Ethics Observations On Justin Trudeau’s “Brownface” Scandal

Other than “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!” that is.

News item:Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident. The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.”

Also: “The re-election campaign of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday when a photograph surfaced of him wearing brownface makeup at a 2001 private school party….Speaking with reporters aboard his campaign plane, Mr. Trudeau, who has long championed the rights of racial minorities in Canada, confirmed that he was in the photo and that he was dressed as Aladdin.

“This is something I shouldn’t have done many years ago,” Mr. Trudeau said. “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.”


1. Wearing make-up to create an image along with a costume is not “racist.” Either Trudeau is just pandering  and grovelling to political correctness, or he’s not every bright. I’ve written about this before, most notably here (the post that got Ethics Alarms banned from Facebook). How is that make-up a negative commentary on the inferiority or inequality of a race? Not being sensitive to the hair-trigger offense reflexes of minorities and activists looking for a “gotcha!’ is not racist. It is not being sensitive to hair-trigger offense reflexes by minorities and activists looking for a “gotcha!”

2. Why is Trudeau’s make-up called “brownface” and less dark make-up called “blackface” when an African-American is being portrayed? Who makes these rules? That sure looks black to me. Most critics refer to Dan Ackroyd’s Jamaican make-up in “Trading Places” as “blackface.” I’d like to know what the distinctions are, since they obviously have nothing to do with color.

Or is it blackface when an American uses dark make-up, and brownface when the miscreant is a Canadian?

3. Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh who is the leader of the New Democratic Party,  said Trudeau’s Aladdin costume was “insulting” and that it might indicate that  the prime minister is not the same person in private as he portrays himself in public.

Imagine,  a politician who represents himself as different from his private personality! Ironically, the only politician and national leader who does not try to represent himself as someone other than who he “really” is seems to be Donald Trump.

4. But, to be fair, how someone behaved 18 years ago only tells us what he may have been like 18 years ago. This is why the Ralph Northam blackface scandal was overwrought, except that it demonstrated the hypocrisy of Democrats.

5. Voting against Trudeau because of a costume and make-up he wore to a long-forgotten party would show a weird and warped priority of values. Voting against him because it is part of a lifetime trend of poor judgement and silliness would be more justifiable. “[The photo] could repel some progressive voters who are against any kind of cultural appropriation and especially blackface,” said Jean-François Daoust, an expert in public opinion at McGill University. “It can undermine the aura he has tried to create.”

Prosper by foolish voters who prioritize progressive cant-driven nonsense, die by them.  It is fair for politicians who mouth irresponsible rhetoric to be held to the consequences and assumptions created by that rhetoric.

43 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On Justin Trudeau’s “Brownface” Scandal

  1. ”It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do”

    It would be helpful if he could identify the Click Moment when he intersectionalized a determinate Wokeness with his Chi.

  2. You missed the third instance. There’s now a video of him in blackface, juggling watermelons, singing the banana boat song, and asking where “all de white wimmin at.”

    I kid. Mostly. There *is* a video of a third instance now though.

  3. So, this just brings back the Megan kelly controversy in my mind:

    The final straw for Kelly on the NBC show came on Tuesday when, during a round-table discussion, she seemingly defended “blackface” and “white face” for Halloween because it was “OK when I was a kid as long as you were dressing like a character.”

    Everyone was so outraged by her saying this — and it was rather innocuous. So, she never wore the blackface, just said that she thought that in her youth this was not a big deal if it was part of a costume.

    Megan Kelly is 48 years old.

    Justin Trudeau is 47 years old.

    So.. is Ms. Kelly due an apology? Even the great liberal leader of Canada has the same opinion on this.. since he wore blackface on several occasions. That must at least say that this faux outrage of today is missing some historic context.

    Lets not to confuse this with some defense of Megan Kelly, she is as bad a journalist as any other.

  4. I’m guessing people are calling it “brownface” because he’s pretending to be an Arab, some of whom have brown skin..except when they have white skin…or olive skin…as opposed to an African- or Caribbean-American some of whom have dark skin.

    • Frankly I couldn’t care less if Justin Trudeau showed up at a party when he was younger doing an imitation of Al Jolson singing “mammy” in blackface. I guess he’s worried about Obama cutting him out of his inner circle for his Aladdin costume.

  5. Why is there no outrage at the Wayan’s brothers comedy entitled “White Girls” where they were made up to look white and behaved in stereotypical white valley girl personas? Because it was funny,
    even demeaning of white girls but not what I would call racist.

    If conservatives don’t like every behavior to be treated as racist we cannot engage in the same behavior of calling this racist. We can however point out wearing makeup to appear to be a different race is not limited to only whites.

  6. Justin seems somewhat Canada’s maybe-slightly-less-loony equivalent of Beta O’Rourke, just Peter-principled higher up the ladder.

    Of course even extensive costuming isn’t inherently racist or offensive. It can be, if solely intended to mock, but even used mockingly, it can still be a valid part of general satire/comedy (think Monty Python). Of course, you’re damned either way by today’s SJWs. If you go full bore with makeup, you’re racist; if you just wear a costume, it’s cultural appropriation. God help you if you throw in an accent. I wonder if any are yet offended by a white-faced Dracula, or Dave Chappelle (and other comics) doing a “white boy” accent? If not, they’ll get around to it, I’m sure.

    They are offended by those not toeing the (proper) line:

  7. Other than “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!” that is.

    I would have been happy if this was your only comment. Not very ethical, but funny.

  8. Justin Trudeau wears a silly costume 18 years ago pretending to be Aladdin and may have his reelection chances minimized (his correction of a woman for saying “mankind” instead of “peoplekind” was far more gratuitous and insulting).

    Whereas Elizabeth Warren pretends most of her life to be Native American, using the designation to advance her career, and still gets to have people who want to elect her.

    Wokeness is an alternate dimension.

  9. Trudeau’s defense is comical. If you think wearing makeup as part of a costume is racist today (it isn’t), then it certainly also was in 2001. This isn’t a photo from the 1960’s, or even the 1980’s. 2001 was long after the concept of “political correctness” had been absorbed into Canadian society.

    You shouldn’t have apologized, Justin. It wasn’t racist in 2001, and it’s not racist today.

  10. Why is Trudeau’s make-up called “brownface” and less dark make-up called “blackface” when an African-American is being portrayed?

    Helluva question, Jack, and the exact same one I asked when I saw the photo after reading the headline. In my opinion, it is a transparent attempt to make the “transgression” less egregious by the media. Everyone “knows” blackface is “racist,” so calling it brownface is just a way to make it seem less evil.

    Prosper by foolish voters who prioritize progressive cant-driven nonsense, die by them. It is fair for politicians who mouth irresponsible rhetoric to be held to the consequences and assumptions created by that rhetoric.

    Kurt Schlichter calls that Leftists being forced to live by their new rules. I think he’s right. You are too.

  11. Before I digress into further commentary, allow me a moment to clear out the schadenfreude:

    HAHAHAHAHAHA (gasp) HAHAHAHA…heh, heh, aw… whew!

    Now, on to the good stuff.

    1. If one defines words to mean whatever on wishes them to mean in the moment, for a temporary advantage, one deserves to get fried when one’s past use of said word becomes… problematic… under the current whim of the elite. Racist has a definition… except now it does not, allowing ANYONE, woke or not, to be destroyed. Good. (‘peoplekind’ my ass…)

    2. This is obviously ‘brownface’ because shut up. Only conservatives and other deplorables can be accused of ‘blackface’ effectively. Google “Northam, Ralph” for an example. Is it racist for a POC to don ‘whiteface?’ What if one is white? What if it is simply cold cream and the picture was taken in your bedroom?

    3. President Trump seems to be the same in private as public, by all accounts. This makes him very different than other politicians, and thus more electable.

    4. Yup. False outrage for political purposes. Except progressives are now so conditioned to be outraged that they are shooting their own. Good.

    5. I will agree to not culturally appropriate when other cultures quit using modern conveniences invented by my culture. Otherwise BITE ME.

    6. There was no number 6

    • Genies are not a protected group, as they have ‘wish privilege.’

      This ignores the horrible, cramped living conditions imposed upon this minority, along with the virtual slavery they are rarely freed from.

      Genies are just not the right ‘kind’ of minority: one that can be used and discarded by progressive politicians. Thus ‘blue face’ will continue to ridicule this noble people.

      “Blue Faces Matter!”

      • PS: You can make a difference in the lives of blue faces everywhere. For just $2.34 per day a genie somewhere can get a cozy placed on their lamp, thus keeping them warm on cold desert nights.

        Contact the ‘Make A Wish Foundation’ for details (motto: ‘without blue faces, them dying kids go nowhere!’)

      • Genie’s (or, more appropriately “djinn”) have not been, to my knowledge, ever portrayed in either the literature or cinematically as being blue. That would make Will Smith’s character a one-off. If that’s not a minority, I don’t know what is.

  12. “Wearing make-up to create an image along with a costume is not “racist.” Either Trudeau is just pandering and grovelling to political correctness, or he’s not every bright. ”
    False dilemma. He’s both. Pandering and groveling to political correctness isn’t very bright. It rarely, if ever, works, and sets you up for a lifetime of pandering and groveling.

    • I’m guessing they are fellow young faculty. But pretty darned cute. And I bet Justin was much more into hookup culture than proto metoo.

  13. Trudeau’s a powerful leader on the Left. He gets a pass. Megan Kelly gets fired for not being sufficiently outraged over “blackface”. Trudeau apologized for his past indiscretions and declared that he is a product of white privilege. Nice trick, Justin. You aren’t responsible; society is rotten to the core and you, Justin, should be given more power. Lizzie Warren claimed Cherokee heritage to advance her career but apologized, learned from the experience and now wants to impo . . . Erm . . . share her knowledge on us who are too dumb to realize our own privilege. She can tell us this at Washington Square Park, expressly telling her fawning crowd that men are unnecessary, to the raucous applause of thousands. That Northam guy has stayed in the governorship because he learned how awful the country is (which may have something to do with a Republican two seats down from the governor’s seat or maybe not; who knows). Oh, and defeated Stacy Abrahams openly states that identity politics is the future of the country (imagine that comment coming from David Duke!).


  14. I have spent my entire life never encountering an event at which I was tempted to wear black (or brown) face makeup. Neither has anyone that I know. Nor was I ever at an event where this type of makeup was worn.

    Yet this guy did it so often that there are three separate occasions where he was photographed (or video’d) in black (brown) face.

    Should we be getting some sort of message from this?

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