Posted on Sep 21, 2019
Given his lofty political ambitions, and an understanding that his family name would carry him far, Justin Trudeau clearly showed what might at best be described as a serious error of judgement in “blacking up” for an Arabian Nights theme gala in 2001, writes Gary Cartwright.
He was also photographed wearing a turban and robes: at that time he could not have imagined that the concept of cultural appropriation would become so popular, particularly amongst those who derive satisfaction, or who earn a good living, by being offended on behalf of others. For an Arabian Nights theme gala what should he have worn, cowboy boots and a Stetson hat?
Early twentieth century theories of cultural change and cultural contact (in German-speaking anthropology, the United States and Britain) were clearly interested in the ‘migration’ of particular elements (symbolic and material) across cultural boundaries, but suffered from a holistic view of bounded cultures. Recent theories of cultural globalisation on the other hand do not pay sufficient attention to the individual actors (as opposed to groups of individuals) in cross-cultural contact. Hybridisation, creolisation, transculturation and other concepts focus more generically on mixtures of different cultural practices in entire societies, but less on individual strategies. Appropriation then is reevaluated as a hermeneutic procedure, an act of dialogical understanding, by which individual actors negotiate access to, and traffic in, symbolic elements which have no fixed meaning.
Trudeau’s political opponents clearly understand the current sensitivities very well, and so it is no coincidence that this “story” has appeared at this time, with Canada’s Federal elections due to take place on October 21st.
The Canadian Prime Minister, whose Liberal credentials are well established, will have an understanding of ethnic diversity: as well as his European blood - he is of France and Scottish stock - he also has Malaccan (Malaysian) and Nias (Indonesian) ancestry. Since 1976 he has been an honorary member of the Haida, an indigenous tribe whose language is known to be at least 14,000 years old. He was ceremonially adopted by an elder of the tribe, and during his first term in office has prioritised the rights of all indigenous peoples.
As we celebrate Indigenous cultures and communities, we also acknowledge the oppression and discrimination Indigenous peoples have experienced for centuries. Canada cannot move forward if Indigenous peoples continue to be held back. Our government is working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples to advance meaningful reconciliation and build a future where Indigenous peoples succeed and prosper.
There are, to be Frank, those in our societies who will find racism in the weather forecast. During an election campaign in London in 2004, on behalf of a candidate I had produced a short piece on the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade calling for more such events. Alongside the text I reproduced an image of a Leprechaun, an iconic Irish symbol.
At an election hustings I was accused of “anti-Irish racism”. I pointed out that I had permission from the Irish Tourist Board to use the Image but that wasn’t good enough: apparently it was ok for the Irish to use the image, but as I am English, this was an act of racism. I pointed out that my the candidate and myself were both of Irish descent, but this was still not good enough.
Far from being anti-racists, those of the far-left - my accuser was sporting a Respect badge, identifying him as a supporter of Saddam Hussein’s old friend and spokesman for terrorists, George Galloway - are oppressors of freedom of speech, and freedom of expression.
To suggest that Justin Trudeau, given his heritage, and his record in office - he has been an advocate of immigration as an economic driver - is in any way racist is ludicrous in the extreme.
Are those members of our communities who it is suggested might be offended by the idea of cultural appropriation really so? I am in no way offended by persons of colour, Michael Jackson comes to mind, who undergo skin whitening processes, why would I be? There are endless beauty salons in London, for example, offering such treatments.
This whole idea is ridiculous. However, it serves well the agenda of the far-left, and the army of lawyers and counsellors who comprise the highly lucrative race-relations industry. It is in the interests of both groups to keep race at the top of the agenda, and the last thing they want is for us all to become “colour blind”.
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