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Trudeau and other politicians facing scrutiny for dressing in blackface

On Thursday morning, more damaging material surfaced of incidents in which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in blackface.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019.
Associated Press

On Thursday morning, more reports of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in blackface surfaced online.

Images found in a yearbook for a private school Trudeau taught at show the politician at an “Arabian Nights” party, dressed up as Aladdin in brown face makeup and a turban, according to The New York Times.

He apologized for the image on Wednesday. Trudeau said he dressed up in blackface while performing “Day-O” in high school.

While Trudeau may be able to come back from these incidents, he’s joined the rising number of politicians who have dressed in blackface.

In February 2013, CNN obtained a photo of New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind wearing blackface at a party in 2013. Hikind said he was supposed to be dressed as a black basketball player, according to an interview with The New York Times.

“Yes, I wore a costume on Purim and hosted a party,” Hikind wrote on his blog. “Most of the people who attended also wore costumes. Everywhere that Purim was being celebrated, people wore costumes. It was Purim. People dress up.”

Hikind added that he was intrigued how anyone who understood him would have a problem with his costume, calling the backlash “political correctness to the absurd.”

In January, photos surfaced of Florida’s Secretary of State Michael Ertel dressed in a “Katrina victim” costume. Ertel dressed in this costume for Halloween 2005, just two months after hurricane Katrina killed 1,800 people in Florida and Louisiana, according to The New York Times.

“I did something stupid 14 years ago, which presented someone from my past with an opportunity for revenge,” Ertel wrote of the photos. “But the opportunity wasn’t just for them. Because, while public revenge may be sweet for them, my private redemption, new family and blessed life have been sweeter.”

Also in January, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was accused of dressing in blackface when it was revealed that his 1984 medical school yearbook page showed two men dressed in racist costumes, one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan-style robe, according to CNN.

Northam originally apologized, but late denied appearing in the photo. He did, however, state that when he was 25, he darkened his face with shoe polish as part of a Michael Jackson costume.

“I didn’t realize at the time that it was as offensive as I have since learned,” Northam said.

After calling for Northam’s resignation, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted in February to wearing blackface during college, according to CNN.

“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” Herring said in a statement. “It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experience and perspective of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

Herring added that the moment had haunted him for decades and was in no way reflective of who he was almost 40 years later.

Finally, in August, audio surfaced from an interview that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey gave with her then-fiancé, Ben LaRavia, in the ’60s.

“As I look at my fiancée across the room I can see her that night, she had on a pair of blue coveralls and she had put some black paints all over her face and we were acting out this skit called ‘cigar buns,’” LaRavia said of the skit the two performed at Auburn University.

Since the audio’s resurfacing, Ivey has come out and apologized for her participation in the skit, according to NPR.

These negative representations of nonwhite people date back to the mid-19th century. White actors would darken their skin using shoe polish and perform in minstrel shows for these representations, according to CNN.

“By distorting the features and culture of African Americans — including their looks, language, dance, deportment and character — white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis,” said a spokesperson from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.