Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back in the headlines Sunday for a “blackface” costume he wore in high school to perform a version of Harry Belafonte’s famous “Banana Boat” song — and it might be the worst example of Trudeau’s bizarre costuming habit to date.
Trudeau has been under fire recently over his penchant for dressing up in “brownface,” including for a full “Aladdin” costume he donned in 2001 for an “Arabian Nights”-themed fundraiser at the school where he taught before entering politics. In addition to faux Arab dress, Trudeau is shown, in photos, with a dark brown-painted face and hands.
Trudeau has shrugged off the criticism, explaining that in 2001, black- and brown-face wasn’t considered racist (it definitely was), and that he simply enjoys committing to themes, especially when that commitment involves costumes. Trudeau says he’s “grown” since his “youth” (he was in his mid-20s at the time) and his opinion on matters of cultural sensitivity has changed.
But, it seems, Trudeau didn’t reserve his political incorrectness just for his Arabian Nights costume. Since that photo emerged, Canadian media has found a handful of other examples of Trudeau in black- and brown-face, usually for parties or events.
In high school, for example, Trudeau dressed as Belafonte for a school show, and, according to the new video, he really committed.
A new high quality video of @JustinTrudeau dancing in blackface
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) September 28, 2019
For his costume, Trudeau didn’t just paint his face. It seems he painted his whole body. He also stuffed socks in his pants to “enhance his crotch,” as one Twitter user put it, and ripped his jeans so that his blacked out knees were visible through a series of holes. He added an afro wig for good measure.
He’s also shown dancing with other students in the video, apparently as part of a class project. Trudeau is the only one among his friends to be in full blackface.
The Toronto Star found the video, which is a better version of another film located by Canada’s Globe & Mail newspaper. The Post Millennial, a Canadian political site, grabbed the video from the Star and posted it to social media. The Star eventually removed the video from its site, but has yet to explain why.
The Post Millennial reports that the video emerged as part of the Toronto Star’s effort to “explain” Trudeau’s blackface moments, and was supposed to refute critics who charged that Trudeau was wearing a banana-themed shirt for his performance (turns out, he was actually wearing a shirt with a toucan on it). But by trying to help Trudeau out, they may have made his situation worse.
Certainly, the video shows Trudeau from his high school years, when he may actually have been too young and green to fully understand the implications of his cultrually appropriative and fully racist costume. But the point Trudeau’s critics are trying to drive home is that Trudeau never actually learned from his mistakes, and his “super woke” turn as Canada’s Prime Minister — he once lashed out at someone for using the term “mankind” because it was gender specific, for example — covers up a myriad of sins.
Trudeau has apologized for the incidents, but it may be too little too late. The Prime Minister is facing an uphill re-election battle and the black- and brown-face controversies are only the latest in a string of missteps. Trudeau also faces allegations that he tried to force friendly legislators to validate his feminist bona fides and he and others in his government may have forced out a female, indigenous attorney general because she planned on investigating a company to which Trudeau and his friends had ties.