A few weeks ago rather stunning photos of Prime Minister Trudeau surfaced showing him in several instances using “blackface” and “brownface” makeup. The reasons and history of the offensiveness of this form of ‘dress-up’ are too numerous to mention and frankly, self-explanatory.
But let’s dig deeper into context. That same 20-something year-old teacher and student grew up to be Canada’s Prime Minister. Does it excuse him? No. Is it offensive and racist? Yes. Should he have been forced to acknowledge it, explain it and apologize for it? Yes.
If you are a news junky, the way I am, you’ll have noticed the international coverage the photos garnered and even the question of its offensiveness reaching the Oval Office during one of President Trump’s stream of consciousness photo-ops.
Fast forward to today. Canada is in the midst of an election and any scandal, new or old, any tidbit of out of the ordinary behaviour is being sought and scrutinized. Again, let me stress the offensiveness and racist nature of the Prime Minister’s action. But if voters are a benchmark of the behaviour of Trudeau then you may have also noticed that the two-day news cycle the news generated appears to have moved on. Voters, it seems, care about other things.
My point: our 24-hour, twitter-feed news cycle is messing with our sense of judgement. If you are an employer and you find out something potentially offensive about an employee’s past, what do you do? Are you quick to fire them? Find out their reasons or context for the behaviour or move on without ever mentioning it? Do you, in essence, give them a fair shake?
I feel that people are afforded less of a fair shake these days than in previous years. I realize that’s not scientific but I’ve noticed it when dealing with other professionals and clients. There is a lack of patience and ability to find context with a quick desire to pivot and move to the next issue.
Workplaces demand our patience and attention. Context can mean everything and should be observed when considering employee behaviours or actions. Slow down and consider everything before making a decision—oh yeah, most importantly, don’t wear blackface.