In some of the spaces I navigate these days, including a few Muslim communities of People of Color (PoC), Justin Trudeau is not only admired, but almost revered. We are in awe that our handsome Prime Minister does not only look hot in selfies, but he also seems extremely moderate in comparison to the Southern neighbour (when did Trump become the standard?). We are so enamoured with Canada’s leader that we are willing to overlook the many ways in which Justin Trudeau is not only problematic, but also the head of a settler state that continues to oppress many racialized communities, including Muslims.
Hence, in the spirit of contemplation and reflection that Ramadan brings along, this year is an opportunity to question our need to feel accepted and recognized by a handsome young white male, who holds a lot of power, who has done very little for racialized communities, and who upholds the threads of white supremacy, gendered violence and capitalism that the settler state is built upon.
This Ramadan I am doing the Trudeaumania-fast.
Reflection #1. Trudeau isn’t doing feminist work.
Trudeau is a self-proclaimed feminist (sorry, but *eye roll*). Media outlets have also referred to him as a feminist Prime Minister after he appointed a cabinet where 50% are women, while saying “it is 2015” (never mind, pay inequalities). Apparently, we are thirsty for a white man to acknowledge that our feminisms are not evil; or perhaps, those who do not identify as feminists need a white man to tell them that feminisms are nothing to be afraid of. We are thrilled to see more women in cabinet and we are very excited to see Muslim women being appointed to a federal cabinet as Ministers, despite the fact that white and white-passing women represent more than half of the women appointed.
The question is, how is this a feminist move? Appointing well-rounded, highly educated and well-connected women to government is not a feminist act in itself, just like voting for women is not feminist activism and it does not always result in better quality of life and less marginalization for racialized women, particularly racialized trans-women. Including women of colour (WoC) in government structures is actually an evolution of the settler state’s tactics to control racialized bodies and uphold capitalist systems. It also goes hand-in-hand with neoliberal notions of multiculturalism that appease minorities, while exploiting the labour of racialized women from the very core of the state. Having WoC in cabinet and government benefits some; however, it does not make visible and racialized Muslim women, particularly Black women, any safer or any less marginalized/oppressed.
But also, why is Trudeau taking all the space?
Reflection #2. Being pretty doesn’t qualify Trudeau to be Prime Minister, but it makes his violence more palatable.
One of the things that really gets me is the fact that we are in awe at the fact that Trudeau is the hotter Prime Minister Canada has had in a while, as if being hot was a political requirement (apparently it is). Memes commenting on Trudeau’s hotness appeared during the election, and Americans, including American Muslims, have been happy to participate in the dynamic. Thus, several memes comparing hot Trudeau to ugly Trump exist.
Centering the head of a settler state’s looks in lieu of his tangible actions (and violence) is problematic. It serves to masks the ways in which he perpetuates violence and micro-aggressions, including a bunch of broken promises to the most marginalized communities in the country. All this talk about our good looking Prime Minister, makes me think that if Trump was younger and cuter, we would all be super chill about Muslim bans, restrictions on Mexicans and the border wall, homophobia, sexism and ableism.
Why? Because to be honest, Trudeau is not too that far behind. He is just very polite and Canadian about it.
The cute Prime Minister has upheld bill C-51, which targets racialized Muslim communities. His government has also revoked citizenship way faster than his predecessor alluding to citizenship fraud. Mexicans, who were faced with an expensive and complicated visa requirement during the Conservative government, are now being detained by the bulk in Canada under Trudeau’s regime.
Trudeau also signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has been described as the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) encompassing 12 countries and will have incredible effects on Third World countries, marginalized communities and Indigenous rights across countries. The Trudeau government also continues to support unethical and violent resource extraction on Indigenous territories domestically and Third World Indigenous communities, while restricting these citizens from seeking immigration and refugee status in Canada.
Trudeau’s government further refuses to investigate police violence against Indigenous and Black communities, and it has done nothing, like literally, to protect Muslim women from racialized violence stemming from white supremacy and current waves of conservatism in the country.
Reflection #3. Trudeau isn’t an “ally.”
Notions of allyship can be very problematic for some communities, but the term is heavily used to describe our beloved Prime Minister. We get very excited when Trudeau takes pictures with Muslims and Syrian refugees. We love it when he comes to the mosque. We melt when he wishes us Eid Mubarak. And we could not feel more “Canadian” than when he tells us Canada loves us and we belong here.
Why do we believe that governments and states are our “allies”? Historically, Canada has not been a place where racialized people are welcome, except when they meet the needs of the capitalist system. That is why bans on non-white immigrants were removed in the 20th century, while racism and discrimination heavily prevailed. PoC were not considered for immigration until Black and Indigenous labour (and slavery) were not enough to meet the needs of the expanding and violently growing Canadian economy. Trudeau is part of this racialized system, and as head of the settler state, he will always uphold the racialized and gendered distribution of labour, poverty, violence and marginalization. Selfies are not commitments to our communities, they are PR for multiculturalism policies.
Reflection #4. Muslim women have bigger problems than “boys and lipstick,” and multiculturalism is one of them.
Last year, Trudeau framed multiculturalism as something that allows all minorities to mingle and live together, and he framed the very minor issues of multiculturalism (in his opinion) through the example of Muslim girls, by saying “…if you are growing up as a second-generation Muslim girl in Canada means you may have to have a difficult conversation with your parents about lipstick or about that Indian boy you are dating.”
To reduce multiculturalism, and how violent it can be, to a question of boys and lipstick speaks to a problematic unwillingness to recognize that violence perpetrated by the settler state is a huge part of our experiences as racialized people. I do not believe Trudeau is ignorant about violence, anti-Blackness and Islamophobia. But appearing to be so is much more forgiving than point blank telling us that he is unwilling to do anything about the violence that racialized women face through Islamophobia, precarious employment, harassment, employment discrimination, poverty, etc.
Trudeau’s philosophy? Selfies for all, problems for none, prescribed multiculturalism for everyone and rewards for well-behaved immigrants.
Refection #5. Trudeau has been pretty shitty to BIPoC.
In my mind, empathy is something we should all practice more. Learning to care for others’ struggles, and to support them from behind the scenes without taking all the space is key. That means, putting your money where your mouth is, learning to listen, wash dishes, caring for children, picking up trash, volunteering time and labour or whatever skill we may have to other’s struggles in ways that may not visibly and directly benefit us. But, unfortunately, we are very bad at that. That is why we often fail to see how our love for Trudeau is not only cringe-worthy, but violent in itself.
Trudeau has been the shittiest to Indigenous, Black and Third World communities, particularly those that are economically marginalized. While we are all over here enchanted at the fact that Trudeau showed up to greet Syrian refugees (while neglecting to recognize that Syrian refugees are struggling and selfies do not pay the bills), he went rogue and approved a bunch of pipelines, made deals with heads of states currently violating human rights (here and here), told Indigenous women his government will not investigate the police, looked the other way at human rights violations perpetuated by Canadian Blue Helmets in Haiti, sold military goods to regimes (in)famous for human rights violations, ignored that precarious employment entails vulnerability for racialized youth, particularly women and looked the other way at the fact that white supremacists are roaming Canadian cities while the number of hate crimes increases. Also… throwing money at “the problem,” as Trudeau’s government is currently doing with Indigenous communities, is not a long-term commitment to ending institutional violence and structural marginalization. That is why, “reconciliation” starts looking a bit shaky.
So, I hope we will all spend some time reflecting on our undying love for the Prime Minister, so we can be better to each other and more empathetic towards each other’s struggle… I also selfishly hope to stop seeing Trudeau selfies in my news feed… but that’s another story!