Blackface and brownface in Canada: a history

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swallow swallow's picture
Blackface and brownface in Canada: a history

I am requesting that this thread be in accord with the guidelines for the anti-racist forum and not a debate on the current election. There are other threads for that. 

 

swallow swallow's picture

Brownface, a variation on blackface, is the racial caricaturing of “Brown” groups, such as Latin Americans, Indigenous people, and South Asians.

Trudeau has a long history of dressing up in the traditional clothing of South Asians. We’ve all seen the pictures of him with wife and children in tow donning traditional Indian and/or Sikh attire. Now we know where it comes from, and I’m not at all shocked by it.

If we keep it real for a minute, Trudeau is not the first (or last) white male to darken their skin in supposed jest. As someone who has spent the last 10 years studying blackface in Canada, the one thing I know to be true is that blackface is as Canadian as hockey. It literally was (is) performed everywhere.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2019/09/19/why-trudeaus-brownface-photo-is-not-shocking.html

swallow swallow's picture

Minstrel shows were also very popular in Canada.

Twitter thread on history of blckface in Canada by Bashir Mohamed: https://twitter.com/BashirMohamed/status/995794280517009408

swallow swallow's picture

When blackface occurs in Canada, a frequent response is that it is a U.S. phenomenon. Although blackface minstrelsy may have originated in the U.S., it was also wildly popular in Canada. Not only did U.S. minstrel troupes travel to Canada to perform blackface to full houses, but there were also several Canadian minstrel troupes who did their own rounds of the U.S. and Canada.

Québec musician Calixa Lavallée, the composer of the Canadian national anthem, established much of his career travelling as a blackface minstrel. So we can say that blackface minstrelsy is as Canadian as “O Canada.”

https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-blackface-97987

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

He has a fascination with playing dress up and zero awareness of anti-racism work and the effect this shit has on people. He clearly has little respect for the cultures he appropriates.

Last year he marked Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, while wearing a black sherwani robe. Although he later caused controversy by tweeting this image with the caption 'Dewali Mubarak' - which is an Arabic greeting

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5417661/Canadian-Prime-Minister...

 

swallow swallow's picture

Sure but it's a systemic problem not an individual problem. 

From coast to coast, blackface continues to happen because there is a pervasive lack of understanding about the genre’s history – not just as an American tradition, but as a Canadian one, as well.

http://spacing.ca/toronto/2018/10/29/the-complicated-history-of-canadian-blackface/

NDPP

 On 'Aladdin'

The Racial Wonderland of Aladdin's Genie

http://www.vulture.com/2019/05/the-racial-wonderland-of-aladdins-genie.html

"...Something like accuracy isn't exactly tenable for the reprise of a story with characters whose culture only exists in the white imagination. 'Alladin is a strange case since the 1992 move is itself a white dream,' Justin Charity wrote in 2017. 'Whitewashing', or more precisely, Orientalism, is the movie's original sin, and its casting isn't the half of it..."

 

Aladdin

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aladdin

"...In the United Kingdom, the story of Aladdin was dramatised in 1788 by John O'Keefe for the Theatre Royal Covent Garden. It has been a popular subject for pantomime for over 200 years..."

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

swallow wrote:

Sure but it's a systemic problem not an individual problem. 

From coast to coast, blackface continues to happen because there is a pervasive lack of understanding about the genre’s history – not just as an American tradition, but as a Canadian one, as well.

http://spacing.ca/toronto/2018/10/29/the-complicated-history-of-canadian-blackface/

It is absolutely a systemic problem. That Bill 21 even exists points to a very deep systemic racism in our society. However it is also an individual problem for white people who engage in appropriating other cultures inappropriately.

What Trudeau did was racist and he should have known that. The fact that in the privileged enclave where he taught the sons and daughters of the richest members of BC's oligarchy nobody considered it inappropriate and the photo made it into the school yearbook instead of being swept under the carpet points to how embedded the systemic problem is.  This brazen attitude of Canada's wealthy is a large part of the rot in our racist society. I'll bet every single dollar I can set my hands on that some of the parents at this school treat their foreign domestics worse than slaves.

voice of the damned

swallow wrote:

When blackface occurs in Canada, a frequent response is that it is a U.S. phenomenon. Although blackface minstrelsy may have originated in the U.S., it was also wildly popular in Canada. Not only did U.S. minstrel troupes travel to Canada to perform blackface to full houses, but there were also several Canadian minstrel troupes who did their own rounds of the U.S. and Canada.

Québec musician Calixa Lavallée, the composer of the Canadian national anthem, established much of his career travelling as a blackface minstrel. So we can say that blackface minstrelsy is as Canadian as “O Canada.”

https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-blackface-97987

Well, in fairness to Canada, Lavallee's claim to a Canadian identity were relatively slight. He was a long-term expat in the USA, served in the Union army during the ACW, campaigned AGAINST Confederation(see the link), and doesn't seem to have done much, if any, minstrelsy in Canada.

Not that I'm denying the existence of systemic racism in Canada, just that Lavallee might not be the best figure to make that case.

Pondering

kropotkin1951 wrote:

What Trudeau did was racist and he should have known that. The fact that in the privileged enclave where he taught the sons and daughters of the richest members of BC's oligarchy nobody considered it inappropriate and the photo made it into the school yearbook instead of being swept under the carpet points to how embedded the systemic problem is.  This brazen attitude of Canada's wealthy is a large part of the rot in our racist society. 

Excellent point. 

NDPP

Well I heard interviews with those people asserting their anti-racism too but what also sticks is an observation made by one of the toney Point Grey parents that nobody but the raving narcissist drama-teacher Trudeau 'blacked-up' or wore such an elaborate costume, which rather surprised everyone. But as he wryly observed,  "That's Justin Trudeau for you..."

swallow swallow's picture

voice of the damned wrote:

swallow wrote:

When blackface occurs in Canada, a frequent response is that it is a U.S. phenomenon. Although blackface minstrelsy may have originated in the U.S., it was also wildly popular in Canada. Not only did U.S. minstrel troupes travel to Canada to perform blackface to full houses, but there were also several Canadian minstrel troupes who did their own rounds of the U.S. and Canada.

Québec musician Calixa Lavallée, the composer of the Canadian national anthem, established much of his career travelling as a blackface minstrel. So we can say that blackface minstrelsy is as Canadian as “O Canada.”

https://theconversation.com/the-problem-with-blackface-97987

Well, in fairness to Canada, Lavallee's claim to a Canadian identity were relatively slight. He was a long-term expat in the USA, served in the Union army during the ACW, campaigned AGAINST Confederation(see the link), and doesn't seem to have done much, if any, minstrelsy in Canada.

Not that I'm denying the existence of systemic racism in Canada, just that Lavallee might not be the best figure to make that case.

Thank you for your correction over which part of this article I chose to quote. I recommend reading the entire article. 

 

swallow swallow's picture

he Justin Trudeau blackface controversy is not about whether the Liberal leader is racist. It’s about the racism of Canadian institutions — institutions that fail to sanction the Justin Trudeaus of the world for wearing blackface, that reward the Andrew Scheers and Michelle Rempels of the world for targeting migrants and rubbing shoulders with white supremacists, and that punish the Jagmeet Singhs for trying to lead the country while wearing a turban.

In other words, this is about structural racism. And we need to talk about it.

When Trudeau’s government tries to cut a deal with a multi-billion-dollar multinational corporation to help it avoid prosecution on criminal charges, while allowing Indigenous peoples to live under boil water advisories and suffer mercury poisoning — that is structural racism.

Lots more at https://ricochet.media/en/2728/justin-trudeau-an-apology-is-not-enough

swallow swallow's picture

Would anyone be surprised if new footage emerges of Justin Trudeau dressed in brownface and faking an Indian accent — “Hull-oohh!” — while sprinting through the frame and pulling a rickshaw full of naan and kebobs?

Nope. No Canadian would be surprised. Not after this week. What are we up to now? Three? Four? One thousand? It’s bonkers. Justin Trudeau has been captured on camera as a brown man more times than either one of my dead grandfathers, who were actually brown men. I laughed on Thursday watching a clip of Trudeau telling reporters he’s not sure if more photos exist of him in brownface or blackface.

https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/opinion/2019/09/20/trudeaus-blackfacebrownface-scandals-show-the-narcissist-underneath-it-all.html?

WWWTT

swallow wrote:

Would anyone be surprised if new footage emerges of Justin Trudeau dressed in brownface and faking an Indian accent — “Hull-oohh!” — while sprinting through the frame and pulling a rickshaw full of naan and kebobs?

Nope. No Canadian would be surprised. Not after this week. What are we up to now? Three? Four? One thousand? It’s bonkers. Justin Trudeau has been captured on camera as a brown man more times than either one of my dead grandfathers, who were actually brown men. I laughed on Thursday watching a clip of Trudeau telling reporters he’s not sure if more photos exist of him in brownface or blackface.

https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/opinion/2019/09/20/trudeaus-blackfacebrownface-scandals-show-the-narcissist-underneath-it-all.html?

So in other words, because I'm white and wealthy I didn't know what racism is. So it's not my fault I'm a racist.

What a fucking liar!

This guy is just a piece of garbage. Total fucking embarasment to Canada!

Ya Canada's back hey. Back right to 1950!

pookie

Pondering wrote:

kropotkin1951 wrote:

What Trudeau did was racist and he should have known that. The fact that in the privileged enclave where he taught the sons and daughters of the richest members of BC's oligarchy nobody considered it inappropriate and the photo made it into the school yearbook instead of being swept under the carpet points to how embedded the systemic problem is.  This brazen attitude of Canada's wealthy is a large part of the rot in our racist society. 

Excellent point. 

According to this CBC report (see the embedded clip), the school was actually quite diverse in 2001.  Not saying it wasn't privileged, but the idea that it was all or mostly white appears to be incorrect. 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-brownface-photo-trudeau-west-point-grey-1.5290814

Brown and blackface are objectively wrong and problematic.  But POC react to it differently.  It's not as simple an issue as some have tried to portray it.

 

Paladin1

Editing for later

swallow swallow's picture

Paladin, could you please keep specualtion about the electoral impact to the other thread? I was hoping this one would not be about electoral politics. 

West Point Grey is definitely diverse, as are many upper-crust schools in Canada - especially Vancouver.

Nearly half (48%) of British Columbia independent school parents were born outside Canada, compared to less than a third (31%) of British Columbians (Statistics Canada 2017a). Thirty-seven percent compared to 30 percent are visible minorities, respectively. Twenty-six percent of independent school parents are Chinese (18% Cantonese, 8% Mandarin) compared to less than 12 percent of British Columbians overall, and over 4 percent are Filipino compared to less than 3.5 percent.

https://www.cardus.ca/research/education/reports/who-chooses-independent-schools-in-british-columbia-and-why/#cultural-and-ethnic-diversity

Many of Vancouver's wealthiest have Chinese names. When people in Vancouver complain about "mega-mansions" they are in many ways complaining about Chinese wealth. 

NDPP

"An event hosted by the family business of Conservative candidate Tamara Jansen featured entertainers in blackface."

https://twitter.com/CBCNews/status/1175416915080204291

'Black Pete'

swallow swallow's picture

"Black Pete" is the Dutch equivalent of blackface, harkening back to teh 19th C Dutch slave trade from Africa to Suriname. 

https://qz.com/307305/the-dutch-dont-think-its-racist-for-santa-to-have-black-slaves/

Paladin1

swallow wrote:

Paladin, could you please keep specualtion about the electoral impact to the other thread?

Absolutely Swallow, sorry about that!

swallow swallow's picture

Thank you. 

Aladdin of course fits into the tradition of Orientalism, most often aimed in what is now Canada at Asians but originally targeting Middle Eastern peoples, especially Arabs. 

http://arabstereotypes.org/why-stereotypes/what-orientalism

jatt_1947 jatt_1947's picture

https://twitter.com/ajitxsingh/status/1174713904552914944

 

That Trudeau's brownface is a "scandal" while there is near silence over him supporting wars on Syria + Yemen reflects the superficiality of anti-racist politics in the West. Wearing makeup crosses the line but literally bombing brown ppl + trying to overthrow their govts doesnt?

Paladin1

Good observation jatt. 

Easier to be outraged over something from 2001 and demand that typical apology than confront something uncomfortable that murders people while making Canadian jobs and infusing a couple billion in the economy  

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

pookie wrote:

Pondering wrote:

kropotkin1951 wrote:

What Trudeau did was racist and he should have known that. The fact that in the privileged enclave where he taught the sons and daughters of the richest members of BC's oligarchy nobody considered it inappropriate and the photo made it into the school yearbook instead of being swept under the carpet points to how embedded the systemic problem is.  This brazen attitude of Canada's wealthy is a large part of the rot in our racist society. 

Excellent point. 

According to this CBC report (see the embedded clip), the school was actually quite diverse in 2001.  Not saying it wasn't privileged, but the idea that it was all or mostly white appears to be incorrect. 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-brownface-photo-trudeau-west-point-grey-1.5290814

Brown and blackface are objectively wrong and problematic.  But POC react to it differently.  It's not as simple an issue as some have tried to portray it.

If you read my comment you might note that the descriptor white is not in it. I am very aware that members of our oligarchs come in various skin tones but they all accept without question the systemic racism that our society is built on. In a regular public school there are always anti-racist people who would be outraged by this from a teacher and who would speak up. Apparently no one in this community even had the sensibility to not publish it, precisely I believe because it was Justin Trudeau doing it. In the world of privilege in Canada Justin has always been a leading prince. Let us not forget this is just a year after he told a young woman in Creston he would not have grabbed her if he had known she was a reporter for a national paper, otherwise he can grab lower class ass if he wants.

The people who send there kids to this school do so to have their children get the right contacts to succeed not to overthrow the racist underpinnings that have made all the parents in that school rich.

Pondering

kropotkin1951 wrote:

The people who send there kids to this school do so to have their children get the right contacts to succeed not to overthrow the racist underpinnings that have made all the parents in that school rich.

Rather than dividing by race we should try doing it by class. Make common cause with the oppressed regardless of color or ethnicity. 

swallow swallow's picture

From Stuart Parker, who knows a thing or two about it: 

In other words, around roughly the same time as Justin Trudeau arrived in town, Vancouver’s biggest private theatrical company was riven with divisions over blackface and associated issues. This conflict among two generations of Black performers and activists was on the editorial pages of the city’s paper of record. Bibb was doing anti-racism musical workshops in both private and public schools; I know he approached West Point Grey Academy.

What do these details mean today?

First, race and racism were front and centre in Vancouver’s public square. Nobody in Vancouver was living in a post-racial society. Anyone remotely aware in Vancouver in the 1990s, when Trudeau arrived on the west coast, would have known himself to be in a city in profound conflict over a rising tide of racism.

Second, as an actor and drama teacher, he would have known about the conflicts over Jim Crow–style productions that were tearing Vancouver’s theatrical community apart and forcing everyone onto sides. It is clear to me, from the images of him back in the day, that Trudeau chose a side. And it was not the side my family was on.

https://ricochet.media/en/2727/putting-trudeaus-brownface-in-its-historical-context-only-makes-it-worse

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

That was an excellent piece, thanks Swallow. I tried searching for some context by looking at period stuff on the internet but discovered that it is virtually impossible to sift through the page after page of irrelevant American sites from the wrong era.

quizzical
bekayne

Did you know this guy was far right when you posted this?

Pondering

Thanks for the warning. I won't watch it. 

quizzical

bekayne wrote:

Did you know this guy was far right when you posted this?

 

Nope no idea who he is.

Paladin1

Pondering wrote:

Thanks for the warning. I won't watch it. 

 

He's a POC. Maybe you should consider watching it anyways?

bekayne

Paladin1 wrote:

Pondering wrote:

Thanks for the warning. I won't watch it. 

 

He's a POC. Maybe you should consider watching it anyways?

So are Candace Owens and Dinesh D'Souza.

Paladin1

bekayne wrote:

Paladin1 wrote:

Pondering wrote:

Thanks for the warning. I won't watch it. 

 

He's a POC. Maybe you should consider watching it anyways?

So are Candace Owens and Dinesh D'Souza.

 

They sure are.  Only listening to people that support your own beliefs and views is called a conformation bias.

swallow swallow's picture

babble is NOT intended as a place where the basic and fundamental values of human rights, feminism, anti-racism and labour rights are to be debated or refought. 

From babble policy.

anti-racism news and initiatives

Discuss issues of race and racism from an anti-racist point of view.

Pondering

Paladin1 wrote:

bekayne wrote:

Paladin1 wrote:

Pondering wrote:

Thanks for the warning. I won't watch it. 

 

He's a POC. Maybe you should consider watching it anyways?

So are Candace Owens and Dinesh D'Souza.

 

They sure are.  Only listening to people that support your own beliefs and views is called a conformation bias.

It's also called principles. Being female doesn't make one a feminist. Unions have scabs. Being a member of a group doesn't mean one is representative of it.

Paladin1

swallow wrote:

babble is NOT intended as a place where the basic and fundamental values of human rights, feminism, anti-racism and labour rights are to be debated or refought. 

From babble policy.

anti-racism news and initiatives

Discuss issues of race and racism from an anti-racist point of view.

Are Jerocho Green, Candace Owens and Dinesh D'Souza racist?

Paladin1

Pondering wrote:

It's also called principles. Being female doesn't make one a feminist. Unions have scabs. Being a member of a group doesn't mean one is representative of it.

Sorry Pondering I'm not exactly sure what you mean, context wise.

swallow swallow's picture

And here we are debating basic principles. Good luck everyone. 

Paladin1

swallow wrote:

And here we are debating basic principles. Good luck everyone. 

 

We're actually not, but good luck to you too.

Pondering

Paladin1 wrote:

Pondering wrote:

It's also called principles. Being female doesn't make one a feminist. Unions have scabs. Being a member of a group doesn't mean one is representative of it.

Sorry Pondering I'm not exactly sure what you mean, context wise.

That someone is black doesn't mean I should listen to them spout alt-right propaganda.

Before you say,L how do I know without listening" I don't but I trust bekayne's judgement on this so I don't want to give the person youtube views nor listen to garbage. 

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

In terms of what Pondering means, Ben Carson comes to mind.

https://www.alternet.org/2015/09/ben-carsons-breathtaking-delusion-about...

Unionist

Debating with a troll. How honourable. And wow, is he having an easy job earning his keep here.

Unionist

quizzical wrote:

bekayne wrote:

Did you know this guy was far right when you posted this?

 

Nope no idea who he is.

I hate to speak for bekayne, but I think the question really was: "Did you actually listen to all the shameless ultra-right shit he spewed before posting this?" I'm sure you couldn't have.

quizzical

unionist i watched the whole thing.

not up to me to judge him as far right.

Paladin1

Pondering wrote:

That someone is black doesn't mean I should listen to them spout alt-right propaganda.

Before you say,L how do I know without listening" I don't but I trust bekayne's judgement on this so I don't want to give the person youtube views nor listen to garbage. 

Sorry for the big post but I think it's relevant and I wanna say important too - at least I think so :)

I find your response interesting Pondering due to something you said previously. While you're pro-choice you're willing to listen to what pro-life advocates had to say, or words to that effect. Which is amazing considering how emotionally charged that debate is, not a lot of love lost between those sides I've found. Super open minded of you.

But here you absolutely shut down the possibility of listening to someone else because they're accused of being right wing. Or "far right". Or "alt right".  Let's be honest. Anything "right wing" is assumed to be alt-right, far right,  hateful imperialist racists. There's no just right wing anymore.

One thing I've seen here and other places is that white people need to shut up and listen to POC. I found that insulting at first but thought, maybe it's true. But it seems that should that actually read white people should shut up and listen to POC with left-wing views only?

Quizzical,  articulate and smart poster who you'll be hard pressed to accuse of being right wing or racist, posted a link to do with our PM and his blackface episodes. It would be insulting to assume she posted it without watching it so I figured she did (which she just confirmed). Clearly she thought it was relative to the conversation here. But the author gets accused of being right wing (which he appears to be) so his views or opinions are automatically unworthy of listening to? That just seems closed minded to me.  A POC made a video about Trudeau and his black face,  posted here in a thread about Blackface. Does his political views superceed his views as a POC on racisim? He's American, do we extend that cone of silence to any conservative POC in Canada?

Paladin1

Unionist wrote:

Debating with a troll. How honourable. And wow, is he having an easy job earning his keep here.

I miss the Unionist that would BEG people not to talk to me. Then when everyone ignored him, tried to engage me in conversation.  Good times :)

Unionist

quizzical wrote:

unionist i watched the whole thing.

not up to me to judge him as far right.

I didn't judge him. I don't know him.

I was judging the things he said on camera. Just wondering whether you agreed with the comments he made? I'm trying to understand why you posted this.

quizzical

Unionist wrote:

quizzical wrote:

unionist i watched the whole thing.

not up to me to judge him as far right.

I didn't judge him. I don't know him.

I was judging the things he said on camera. Just wondering whether you agreed with the comments he made? I'm trying to understand why you posted this.

no didnt agree with all he said just thought he was a lack knowledge American as most are way more right wing than Canadians anyway.

i think the whole blackface gotcha thing by white people is just using PoC to further agendas and is a form of racism by exploitation in itself.

Pondering

Paladin " Let's be honest. Anything "right wing" is assumed to be alt-right, far right,  hateful imperialist racists. There's no just right wing anymore….

But here you absolutely shut down the possibility of listening to someone else because they're accused of being right wing. Or "far right". Or "alt right

I differentiate between the old Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Conservatives which are also different than the small c conservative of old that was more of a traditionalist that distrusted change. I also differentiate between leaders and supporters. Alt right or far right is another fish altogether. It is far from conservative.

Paladin I find your response interesting Pondering due to something you said previously. While you're pro-choice you're willing to listen to what pro-life advocates had to say, or words to that effect. Which is amazing considering how emotionally charged that debate is, not a lot of love lost between those sides I've found. Super open minded of you. 

Thank-you, close but not exactly. I said I could still accept their claim to be feminist. I think religion is imaginary but I accept that to many people it isn’t and that to many people a fetus is a human therefore to remove it is murder. If I believed that I too would be anti-abortionist.

I too respect Quizzical in most things. In this case she didn’t mention what she found interesting or relevant about the clip. I don’t want to give views to youtubers with hard right views.

I will listen to and discuss some right wing or conservative or Conservative ideas but not those I believe are counter to human rights or target a group.

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