The revelation that Canadian prime minister and international leftist darling Justin Trudeau wore blackface on several occasions in the 1990s and early 2000s offers several opportunities for social growth. First, we may enjoy the absurdity of the costumes itself. As cancel culture attempts to abolish comedy, lily-white Justin Trudeau’s photos as an Arabian prince and the King of Calypso give us all a needed laugh. Second, we may savor the schadenfreude as the Left squirms to defend Trudeau’s repeated donning of blackface just one year after demanding Megyn Kelly’s head for merely discussing the propriety of the costume. And third, we might use Trudeau’s minstrel show to turn our society away from cancel culture and toward one marked by grace and civility.
No one actually cares about blackface. If they did, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Ted Danson, Joni Mitchell, Billy Crystal, Cyndi Lauper, Fred Armisen, Howard Stern, Robert Downey Jr., and Sarah Silverman, among others, would no longer have careers — much less continue to enjoy widespread popularity. Ralph Northam would no longer serve as governor of Virginia. All people of goodwill object to racial hatred. But no one cares that Billy Crystal darkened his skin to portray Sammy Davis Jr. No one thinks Justin Trudeau hates black people.
How could Trudeau have impersonated Harry Belafonte without darkening his skin, which is naturally white as the Canadian snow? How could the Wayans brothers have portrayed white chicks without wearing whiteface? Cynical ideologues defend a double standard. They say that the oppressed may imitate their oppressors, but the oppressors may not imitate the oppressed. So blacks may lighten their skin, but whites may not darken theirs. This rubric leaves much ambiguity. Where, for instance, do Americans of Italian descent fall in the hierarchy of victimhood? In 1891, a group of 11 Italian-Americans became the victims of the largest mass lynching in American history. Who is permitted to dress like a cast member of “Jersey Shore?”
Even according to their own premises, the intersectional ideologues contradict themselves. If oppressors may not imitate the oppressed, how can anyone defend wearing drag? If men have oppressed women since time immemorial, as the ideologues insist, then transvestitism is simply blackface for the sexes. Yet the same leftist scolds who harangue their political opponents — and only their political opponents — for wearing blackface not only sanction but even encourage men to dress as women.
The Left wields blackface as a political cudgel, feigning offense and making excuses according to political convenience. Conservatives need not embrace the same cynical and vindictive tactics. We would prefer to live in a society marked by grace and civility rather than one marked by petty opportunism and cancel culture. At the same time, we must not unilaterally disarm and let the Left ravage our cutlure without consequence. Fortunately, there is a third way.
If prominent leftists in the media and politics — the same hacks who demanded Megyn Kelly’s resignation and leap to accuse their opponents of bigotry at every turn — repent in print and on camera, conservatives ought to let Justin Trudeau’s photos slide. If the Left refuses to admit the error of its ways and accept conservatives’ offer of reason, mercy, and grace, then conservatives must demand Trudeau’s resignation. One way or another, the Left must learn a lesson. Justin Trudeau’s ridiculous costumes have offered us all an opportunity for growth. The Left will likely squander it. Too bad. Either way, conservatives will enjoy the show.