Another election cycle, another blackface scandal.
This time, it’s the erstwhile liberal darling, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Caught in between competing political parties — liberals rushing to condemn, and conservatives rushing to gloat — these are rough times for the former good guy, now turned racist villain. Depending on your political point of view, Trudeau’s a racist, a hypocrite, and/or a deserving victim of his own out-of-control politically correct revolution . . . regardless, his political career and past life are reduced down to little more than a twenty-year-old decision . . . or two or three.
In all our rush to condemn (or, to laugh and gloat), we might do well to pause and ask ourselves a few questions:
- Does anyone believe that Justin Trudeau is a closet racist? Anyone? For real, anyone? Maybe he’s a subconscious racist? And if so, has our use of the word “racist” become so all-encompassing as to render it effectively meaningless?
- Just what about this disqualifies him in any sense of the word for political office? A bad decision (or three) 20 years ago? A suggestion that this wokest of woke world leaders was tone-deaf years ago? An awkward apology that attempted, unsuccessfully, to navigate the unnavigable waters of political correctness? A revelation that he’s not the perfectly empathetic person he portrayed himself to be?
- What if we each wore, on the outside, marks identifying our most embarrassing and inconsiderate actions, forever visibly branded by the worst things we’ve ever done? How might we — and those currently rushing to judgment — compare to Trudeau and other “racists”?
- Just what does all this dredged-up furor over past actions accomplish? Teaching people that, “you better toe the politically correct line, or else you’ll be dragged before the mainstream and social media judges for public execution”? Putting aside the question of whether career and reputational wreckage is acceptable collateral damage for exposing past sins that are apparently not reflective of current opinions and actions, the principal trouble with this “we’ll make you an example” justification is that the politically correct standard is a moving goal post. What is acceptable today that will be offensive 20 years from now? And with no apparent statute of limitations, which others of us might be punished for our failure to see the future — branded an insufferable hypocrite based on the divergence between current ideals and past actions?
To me, this “scandal” is a complete non-issue. He’s apologized; it’s time to move on. It’s not reflective of his values, which he has spent years trumpeting and very publicly (as publicly as possible, haha) demonstrating. This is more about (1) kicking a man while he’s down for political gain, (2) making ourselves feel better by piling on, or (3) getting a laugh out of someone’s misfortune. To me, each of those sounds worse than a young man dressing up in blackface.
Lest you take this for my endorsement of Trudeau, I’ve never particularly liked him, and I don’t like him now. But what I like even less is a public show trial. There are plenty of things to judge Trudeau on, but this “scandal” shouldn’t be among them. As I’ve said before, that’s not progressive, it’s regressive.
If we really wanted to be progressive, we would accept the apology and let him move on.