Blackface a Black Mark on Montreal

By Jason Menard

The world’s greatest city just got one heck of a black eye thanks to a bunch of allegedly smart kids parading around in blackface for the world to see.

The idea that a bunch of white kids would engage in this sort of activity in the first place is inane; the fact that they didn’t think that it would end up on YouTube for the world to see? That’s just mind-numbingly stupid.

And for a group of students who are supposed to represent the future elite of the Canadian business world, it shows a shocking lack of judgment – and, perhaps, the need to take a few extra ethics and world relations courses.

These students, from HEC Montreal (École des hautes études commerciales de Montreal – loosely translated as the School of elite business study of Montreal) aren’t dumb. Well, let’s just say they’re not book dumb. But when it comes to having any sort of common sense, they’re about as dumb as the goal posts used in the football game they were watching.

Even just donning Jamaican-style clothing and shouting out “Smoke more weed” as some developmentally stunted attempt at Rasta-inspired humour would have been bad enough. But to slather their face with black paint? That’s almost unforgivable.

I say almost, because these kids need to be given a second chance. And all the people who are so quick to jump and judge need to remember what it was like to be that age, caught up in the orientation week fun, and with a group of like-minded youth. Was every decision you made the smartest one? Do we honestly think these kids are racist? Maybe some are, but for the most part the worst that they should be branded with is the mark of extreme stupidity.

There are certain images that we can’t bring back anymore. The Swastika, despite being a symbol of peace in many cultures, has pretty much been retired by the Nazis. And people know the reaction they’re going to get when they go out in public with it. Blackface is another one of these images that should stay in the past. And don’t give me any hollow justification using these students’ age as a rationale to explain their behaviour. They’re old enough to know better.

So once everyone’s talked themselves down off the edge, what should be the punishment? I don’t see how ruining these kids’ lives by expelling them would do any good. Nor do I think the punishment should be too light – after all, if these future economic leaders don’t have common sense and human decency as part of their makeup naturally, then we need to drill it into them. They’ve not just embarrassed themselves; they’ve sullied the reputation of their school (one that’s held in extremely high regard) and the City of Montreal.

We’re seeing it already in the comments – many of which are worse than the actions of the students. After all, what the kids did was get caught up in a moment; these commenters, who are spewing equally racist venom against French Canadians, are doing is based upon measured, rational thought. I firmly believe that these black-faced kids aren’t racists; the commenters I’m not so sure about.

I also don’t think that they should be forced to volunteer at some Jamaican organization. That kind of “voluntold” behaviour always rings hollow. If some of these kids decide that they need to apologize to the community in that manner, that’s their choice and they should be admired for that. If they’re only doing it because the Dean told them to? Well, that type of empty action is just another slap to the face.

No, what they need to do is be educated. They need to attend multiple sensitivity workshops and be forced to attend community speakers who will discuss the impact of racism on their society.

Maybe then this black mark will become a positive – an entire group of future business leaders who graduate with an added advantage of learning how important it is to consider one’s actions in advance, combined with the first-hand knowledge of the consequences of not doing so.

And then they can start building back the pieces of Montreal’s reputation that they’ve damaged, as this wonderful, multi-cultural, bilingual city doesn’t deserve this type of attention.

Most importantly, it’s up to these students to prove that they’re not racists. This may be the only time in their lives when saying “I’m stupid” is a good thing, because stupid people can learn – and these kids have a lot of learning and growing up to do.

3 thoughts on “Blackface a Black Mark on Montreal

  1. Charlie

    So people angry at this behaviour and repeated racism, are racist for making comments. But somehow these lily white idots are just kids who need a good class as punishment. This is exactly why angry people take to the comments section in rage, and idiot racist white kids continue to do this stuff. Thanks for changing nothing with your article.

    1. Jay Menard Post author

      I really don’t know why I’m bothering. You’ve made up your mind and likely have not read anything else I’ve written on racism. But my point is that I don’t think these kids are racist — just stupid and got caught up in groupthink. Doesn’t make it right but there’s a chance to learn. On the other hand the commenters, making a slew of anti-French generalizations were doing so with allegedly sober thought. That’s worse. If you want to ruin these kids’ future for a stupid event that’s your choice. I just hope you’re as unforgiving of any mistakes you make.

  2. Red

    It’s because we are so forgiving as a society that actions such as those carried by the students at HEC are shrugged off as “stupid”. Most people would have never even imagined doing anything this disrespectful, so yes they have a right to be unforgiving for any mistakes made of this magnitude. I was born here to Chinese parents, am perfectly bilingual, and have been on the receiving end of various racist comments over the course of my student life. Sadly, their ignorance doesn’t surprise me, which is probably the reason we have grown to accept this with such blatant nonchalance. It’s explained that there is a possibility that these kids grew up in rural areas and therefore had not been exposed to other cultures. I find that an easy excuse for arrogance and complete disregard and respect for other cultures.

    Being young is no excuse for any inappropriate behaviour. I never acted out in this way and neither did anybody I knew. Let these kids pay for their mistakes and let them learn a lesson.


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