The Current

People of colour under pressure to accept Trudeau's apology, says activist

El Jones, Halifax's former poet laureate, says after Trudeau's apology people of colour are under pressure to immediately accept and move on.

El Jones also hopes the conversation about racism focuses on societal issues, not an individual's actions

Former Halifax poet laureate El Jones says the conversation around the Trudeau blackface incident needs focus on deeper societal issues with racism, and not just his individual actions. (Sinisa Jolic/CBC)

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Halifax activist and poet El Jones is concerned that after Justin Trudeau's apology Thursday for wearing blackface and brownface, pressure has immediately been put on people of colour to accept his apology and move on.

"Immediately the conversation gets switched to our reactions and how much we're willing to accept apologies, and not around, why do white people continue to invest in these stereotypes?" Jones, Halifax's former poet laureate, told The Current's guest host Rosemary Barton. 

"Why can Justin Trudeau say, 'I didn't understand racism and I'm still a suitable leader for this country,' but [NDP leader] Jagmeet Singh faces questions around whether when you wear a turban you can lead this country?" she added.

Jones said she felt some are afraid the scandal could cost Trudeau the election, but don't want Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to become the next prime minister.

The Conservatives and Liberals are currently in a dead heat according to CBC News' Poll Tracker, with the NDP, Green Party, Bloc Québécois and People's Party of Canada trailing behind.

Trudeau apologized Thursday after 3images and a video of him in blackface and brownface became public.

Jones said she hoped that instead of the conversation focusing on moving on from the incident, more Canadians talked about the deeper societal issues that Trudeau's actions represent.

"The so-called Arabian Nights Aladdin image that takes place in 2001, that's obviously the same time as 9/11," she said.

"And you see [from that time] an expanding state security apparatus against Muslim Canadians that still exists — so people are still fighting to get off the no-fly list."

People need to make these kinds of connections, she said,  to understand the issue in its greater context, rather than just focusing on whether or not those images make Trudeau "a bad person."

"[We need] to not just try and focus it on the actions of one person, as though that's what the conversation racism of becomes about," she said.

In our discussion, The Current also spoke to Kamal Al-Solaylee, author of Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), and a professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism.

Written by Allie Jaynes. Produced by Alison Masemann and Jennifer Chen.