‘Justin Trudeau has had a colourful few days, hasn’t he?’: Blackface and Politics
Individuals use discursive techniques to justify racism and avoid sounding racist in everyday life. The main aim of this research was to examine one specific instance of potential racism, involving Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s use of ‘blackface’. Techniques of discourse analysis were used to analyse media coverage of Trudeau’s previous actions in adopting ‘blackface’, following his public apologies for these actions. Four thematic strands of argument were identified in an analysis of the articles gathered from online media sources surrounding the incident. The forms of argument used by the media to criticise Trudeau and his actions were as follows: (1) describing blacking-up as racist; (2) presenting defence of this behaviour as politically motivated; (3) questioning all Trudeau’s behaviour, and (4) depicting Trudeau as a flawed character. These arguments function both as a focus for media criticisms of Trudeau and his actions and as a basis for producing further criticisms of his policies and political actions. They do at the same time point to some of the issues involved in determining what is to count as racism in current society. Further research is needed to explore more fully the extent to which such argumentative strands are deployed more widely in political debate.