Justin Trudeau’s Black & Brown face

The  tsunami  which  has  emerged  regarding  the implications  of  Mr. Trudeau  sporting  black and brown faces and  even  the  banana  in  his  crutch  as  he  played  the  part  of a  Black  man in Black  face,  have  given  way  to an explosive  discussion of  the  dynamic  of  racism  as  suffered  by  Black and Brown  people.

Of course, the term is not only applicable to just Black and Brown bodies. The  difficulty  I have had  is  listening and reading  what  I would characterized , for  the most part, uninformed chatter about what  constitutes RACISM.

Surely,  as a  Black  woman  articulated  in  a  Toronto  radio  show  this week, in words or words  to  this effect, “ Trudeau?  What racism?  The real racism is what I experience  at  work  every day”.  Truly,  this  is  the  essence  of  my  argument  and that  is,  for  those  of  us  who  have  suffered  the effects of   Racism,  when  this  story  broke,   we  immediately knew  that  Trudeau,  regardless  of  whether  he  had  been a  champion  for  minorities  interests  since  he  took  office,  was  being  racially  insensitive but surely  not  racist.

The  quickest  means  by which  one  could   give  meat  to  the debate  is  to  look  at  the   on line  definition  of  Racism.  On  Google it  is  stated (Miriam Webster): racism – a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

As  a  Black  lawyer, having  been  in Canada  since  1974  and having acted  in roles  of  a  qualified  accountant   for  eight  years   at  Canada  Revenue  Agency  and  a  lawyer for  twenty six  years,  it  is  a  trivialization  of  what  I experienced and  continue  to  experience, just like  that  Black  woman mentioned  above,  every day  in  our  Courts.   

Such  include: a Caucasian  judge screaming at  you  for  no  reason; a Caucasian  judge  going  to do  research on you  to  see if there  is  any  “bad” stuff  against  you  so  he  could  raise  it  to question  your  credibility; a  Caucasian  judge  mocking  you  about  you  using   what  he  sees as a new  word  (penultimate)  and  when  I  objected  to what I  perceive as  being made  fun of, he accused  me  of  playing  the  “race”  card; a Caucasian   judge  staring  at  you as  you  rise  to argue  the case  of  a  Black  man who had been severely  victimized  by  police  and  says  to  you,  “such  is  life” and  “life  happens”; a   judge  saying   out  loud “ I have not  met a  refugee  who  has  ever spoken  the  truth (that day  the  refugee  at issue  was from  Africa); Caucasian  judges  clearly  taking  the side  of  Caucasian  lawyers  because he/she  is  from a  recognized  downtown  firm; Caucasian  judges  pressing  forward  even before  you  open  your  mouth  on the expectation  that  your  unusual   Black  presence  in  the Court  room  needs an accommodation  as  you  would be unable  to speak  English  properly.   These  are  just a  few examples  of  where  for  us  a  Black  people  the  rubber  hits  the proverbial road.

However,   amazingly satisfying is that here we are talking about Race and the politics of  race.   Sadly,  each   opposition  party  has exploited  this  event  and  each  has appeared  sanctimonious  that  oh  how  horrible  this  development is  on  Black and Brown  people.

Well,  I say  keep  your sentiments and your  misplaced  empathy  to  yourselves  as  surely  I do  not  need  it.  What  I need  to see  is  an  over haul  of  the  Judiciary  where   the  objective   must  be  appointments of  Black and Brown  people  to  the  Bench  and especially so  in  the Federal  Court  of  Canada  where  there  is  not a  single  Black  or  Brown face  as a  judge. 

I  note  that  the Federal  Court  deals with  disenfranchised  immigration cases and  my  goodness,  do  they make  their  racist  views  known!  Yeah, these are my real issues…..  lack  of  diversity  and representation  of  us  and  the  obvious  need  for  us  to walk away after  arguing a case  in court  believing   that  “well  today,  one  thing  I could discount,  is  that  the  judge  was  not  discriminatory  or  racist”.   Of course,  the  issues  are  much  broader  but  the  space  provided  here,  clearly does  not  accommodate  a  full exploration. 

OSBORNE  G  BARNWELL   (BA,  (Econ),  Hons B  Comm,  CGA, LLB, LLM)    is  a  lawyer  (civil litigator)  practicing  in  Toronto   since  1993.