Our Viewpoint: The fine line between racism and ignorance

Category:  Opinions
Friday, October 4th, 2019 at 11:30 AM

Our Viewpoint is voted on by The Spectator staff, while then written by the editor of the Voices section. 

For centuries, blackface has been used as a white man’s attempt at making fun of brown and black people. As if slavery wasn’t enough. However, as the times continue to change, and as people — of mixed races, religions, sexualities, and cultures — we must understand that societal norms change too by trying to understand each other’s differences. The past must be accepted for what it is. We must understand that people make mistakes, because at that time they did not know better.

We have to understand that there is a fine line between ignorance and racism.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a known history of blackface. He was recently exposed for a third time after a picture from 2001 resurfaced. Trudeau recently made a public appearance apologizing for his past actions.

“What I did hurt them, hurt people who shouldn’t have to face intolerance and discrimination because of their identity. This is something I deeply, deeply regret,” he said. “[Blackface] is always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface. I should have understood that then, and I should have never done it.”

No cheek can be turned to what Trudeau has done. He is a public official who has mocked black and brown people several times and cannot recall how many more times he’s done so.

Shane Gillis, recently fired from Saturday Night Live, made racist remarks about Asians in 2013 for comedic effect. Unlike Trudeau, Gillis was then shunned for his weak apology. There was no sincerity and belief that he was in the wrong.

Trudeau was dressing up to play a part. We call Trudeau ignorant because his white privilege blinded him from seeing that he was being racist in those moments (a claim he also made about himself in his press apology which, in retrospect, felt more sincere than Gillis).

Gillis faced consequences for his action because his job had a legal right to fire him for being ignorant. Trudeau, being a public servant, will see this backlash in the election.

These men and others like them have to face the consequences of their actions because their actions were racist, but there has to be definitive proof and consistent, possibly daily behavior before we can brand someone a racist.

What society will and will not accept is changing on a daily basis. There is no longer just black and white. There is gray everywhere.

Racists, sexists, Islamophobic individuals, anti-Semites and anyone who believes they’re superior to someone are the people who carry around ideologies people will no longer accept. They will be branded for what they are, because they practice and preach hate on a daily basis.

Those becoming more accepting of these new societal norms perhaps made hurtful comments for comedic effect in the past, but that doesn’t mean they carry that ideology with them. They apologize for hurting those who they offended and carry that regret with them. Those people are ignorant.

The distinction will not always come to us quickly. What we accept and don’t accept will continue to change. Welcome the change toward equality and education with open arms, so everyone can walk this world in peace and with an understanding of their neighbor.

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