FOULDS: Will the perfect among us please stand up?

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau darkened his face while attending events two and three decades ago.

Yes, it is news and needs to be discussed. More importantly, though, is the discussion of what he has learned in the 20 and 30 years since he donned dark makeup at those events.

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Unfortunately, we live in a gotcha, clickbait, lowest common denominator world, where many would prefer to read about gossip and scandals, rather than tax cuts and health care.

The irony is the former has zero effect on the lives of the people between your four walls, while the latter will always impact you greatly. But empty calories are easy to digest and provide that quick high.

On Wednesday, Trudeau said he did not realize at the time his actions would be considered racist. He said he now realized his appearances were racist and he apologized.

In the mid-1980s, younger white kids in my neighbourhood would darken their skin as part of their Michael Jackson Halloween costumes as they trick-or-treated.

In junior high, a white student I knew darkened his skin as part of a costume while performing as Prince in a lip-sync contest.

A decade ago, I attended a Halloween party in Kamloops, at which a white acquaintance of mine wore a huge clock as a necklace and darkened his skin as part of his costume of rapper Flavor Flav.

I don’t believe any of their intentions were racist.

However, the argument accepted by most is that intent is not an excuse, that darkening one’s face is, indeed, racist, considering the racist roots of the practice, when whites would paint their faces in minstrel shows in the slave era of the U.S.

Minorities in other countries, including England and Australia, have also been subject to such mockery.

Perhaps intent is not an excuse, but it certainly is an explanation — the cultural equivalent of the stark chasm between first-degree murder and manslaughter.

There is a massive difference between Thomas Dartmouth Rice wearing a burnt cork blackface mask and performing as Jim Crow in a Deep South theatre in 1835 and that pint-sized Michael Jackson at my door in the Fraser Valley in 1984 — or Justin Trudeau in a costume in 2001.

Nevertheless, a middle-aged white man like myself cannot possibly imagine what it is like to be a victim of racism. If people of colour deem it offensive, it is offensive.

Trudeau has acknowledged that fact and apologized. What, then, is the next step in this saga?

Contemporary politics has become a race to the bottom of the gutter, with every party working feverishly to dig up dirt on past indiscretions of opponents.

If every candidate seeking office laid bare their past online and offline lives for all to see, empty would be every city hall, legislature and parliament.

Nobody’s perfect, as this Trudeau saga shows.

Along with an apology, it is crucial to judge Trudeau’s actions since he made the poor judgment and darkened his face when he was 29 and younger.

If one looks at his political track record of inclusivity — from increasing the number of female candidates to welcoming Syrian and other refugees into Canada — it is obvious he has grown and matured since those photos were taken.

Few people of Trudeau’s age, 47, are the same people they were at 29 or 20 or 15. I am three years older than the Liberal leader and I am definitely a far different person than I was at 29, 20 and 15.

We live. We make mistakes. We learn. We grow. We make more mistakes. We learn again.

To be imperfect is to be human.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s response to this issue was eloquent and powerful. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s? Not so much.

To claim a two-decade-old lapse of judgment renders Trudeau “not fit to govern this country” only exposes the transparent opportunism of a predictable, partisan attack from someone whose own record on human rights for all is dubious — as any dog can tell you.
Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

© Kamloops This Week


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