Opinion: It was only 8 years ago some New West residents defended blackface

Chris Campbell

Twitter was set on fire Wednesday after the Trudeau-racism scandal dropped.

And, sadly, too many white people decided to weigh in with their blackfacesplaining when they should have been listening to people of colour share their pain about Canada’s prime minister doing racist things.

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One of the worst offenders – based on his stature – was B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. You can see his tweet in a screenshot in this blog of this idiotic tweet: “Let the person who has never done anything they regret in high school cast the first stone. Silence. Enough said. This federal election campaign is in the gutters and I am disgusted.”

Hey, Andy, Justin Trudeau wasn’t IN high school, he was 29 and a high school teacher.

Reading so many white people trying to frame this story reminded me of a column I wrote in May about people setting their hair on fire over the removal of the Judge Begbie statue in New Westminster and changes to May Day.

I brought up New West’s own troubling history of people cheering someone in blackface.

In 2011, the annual Dutch Sinterklaas festival in New West was rightly under fire. Organizers ended up cancelling the event after an exhausting controversy surrounding the “traditional” character Zwarte Piet or "Black Peter." But some people in New West fought really hard to keep this character.

andrew weaver blackface tweet
This is an ill-advised tweet by the leader of the B.C. Greens, Andrew Weaver. Screenshot, Twitter

The character drew criticisms of racism from Metro Vancouver's black community over the fact Black Peter appears in blackface makeup and contains negative stereotypes.

Bernard Piprah, a graduate student and organizer of the annual Black History Month symposium at Douglas College, told the Record at the time that the Black Peter character was offensive to many in the black community.

"(The character) is degrading, and it's racist, and it's incredibly outdated," Piprah said. "You can't erase that. You can go to your local library and read that this Black Peter was a slave. He beat children. He was dumb, and he spoke buffoonish Dutch. There are just so many insulting aspects to that character, and I can't believe they're celebrating it in New Westminster."

That was only eight years ago.

They say that people “know better” now, but I’m sure there are some New West residents who are still bitter that “Black Peter” won’t be roaming our local streets this Christmas. They’ll mutter to themselves about “political correctness” and explain away the racist actions of our prime minister, when they should be opening up their ears and listening to the people who are most hurt by all of this.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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