There is the need to judge Trudeau by the standard he set for himself. He has smugly proclaimed himself a new kind of inclusive politician, attuned to every subtlety of racism, sexism, homophobia and other prejudices.
He is what was known in the 1980s as a SNAG — a sensitive, New Age guy. He is, by his own insistence, as feminist as any women and as aware of hidden bigotry as any Indigenous Canadian or Canadian of colour.
In 2001, the inherent racism of brownface was not as widely understood. And Trudeau was, after all, a drama teacher accustomed to playing roles. But the prejudice of blackface was not unknown 18 years ago, either. And for someone who claims to be as enlightened as Trudeau to have dressed up head-to-toe in dark-skinned makeup and ethnic dress would have been insensitive even then, if not outright racist.
Having set such a high standard for himself, Trudeau cannot now be let off the hook of his own making.
You could also argue that Trudeau’s preposterous costume tour of India in February 2018, coupled with the blackface event, proves he hasn’t really grownup in the intervening years. He still thinks it is appropriate — even respectful, somehow — to mimic the appearances of other ethnicities.
If a photo similar to the one of Trudeau with face, neck and hands blackened by makeup and wearing an Arabian turban showed up featuring Ford or Harper or Scheer, the Liberals would gleefully shop it around to every friendly media outlet they could, condemn the “scandalous” behaviour at every campaign stop and quickly have television commercials produced that warned of the Conservatives’ hidden racist agenda.
Note: Trudeau is snuggled up behind a female guest at the fundraiser. His (right) arm is wrapped around her and his hand is splayed across her sternum.