Trudeau: ‘I Had Not Remembered’ Blackface Photos, Not Sure if There Are More

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP

Leftist Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Thursday that he was “wary” of giving a definitive number of times that he had worn blackface because he did not remember the occasions that began surfacing late Wednesday.

Time magazine published a photo Wednesday of Trudeau wearing what it deemed “brownface” — an Arabic-inspired outfit featuring dark skin paint. Trudeau later said he was wearing an “Aladdin” costume for an “Arabian Nights” themed party and apologized for the offense.

He told reporters on that occasion that he had also used blackface in a high school performance of Harry Belafonte’s “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” a photo of which surfaced on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, the Canadian broadcaster Global News published an undated video that appeared to show a man, whom the outlet identified as Trudeau, wearing blackface and waving his arms in the air while making comical faces. Global News noted that Trudeau’s Liberal Party did not deny that the man in the video was Trudeau and that a senior member of the Liberal Party campaign confirmed the identity of the man as Trudeau.

In a press conference to address the new revelations Thursday afternoon, Trudeau did not deny that the video showed him, nor did he provide details on the video. Instead, he apologized for not being able to “appreciate the microaggressions” against minorities that occurred at one point in his life and insisted that his understanding of racial equality had evolved since the images were taken.

The most recent image of Trudeau darkening his skin with makeup in service of racial amusement, the “Aladdin” photo, is dated 2001, when Trudeau was 29 years old.

Given the speed at which the images have surfaced — three photos and video of different instances of racist makeup in 12 hours — multiple reporters asked Trudeau if he could guarantee that the images now public were the only times that he wore blackface.

The first time a reporter can be heard asking if there are more than three times in his life that he had worn blackface, Trudeau appears not to respond to him, issuing his apology and listening to other reporters. The second time, He responds to Canadian Press reporter Teresa Wright who asked, “Have you since been made aware of or remembered other instances [of blackface] and, if so, how many?”

“It is obvious that this is something that was deeply regrettable,” Trudeau responded. “I am wary of being definitive about this because the recent pictures that came out, I had not remembered.”

“And the question is, ‘How can you not remember that?'” Trudeau asked.

He did not provide an answer to his own question. Instead, he added, “the fact is, I, I didn’t understand how hurtful this is to people who live with discrimination every single day. I have always acknowledged the fact that I come from a place of privilege, but I now need to acknowledge that that comes with a massive blind spot.”

Trudeau also said the scandal shows “you need to take responsibility,” but he refused to resign from the leadership of the Liberal Party or detail any consequences he believed should befall him for past racist behavior.

Asked to explain why he decided to wear blackface, Trudeau said, “I think when we recognize, when we reflect on mistakes we made in the past, that is a question that we will always be asking … it wasn’t a good idea, it was a terrible idea. It was something that minimizes and takes advantage of a reality that I have not had to live with.”

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