A video from the parade in Montreal to celebrate the city’s Francophone culture is creating a stir. The video shows a singer atop a float that’s being pushed by four black men in khakis, akin to prison garb, as a white crowd dances around them.
The float’s pushers also included Asian and Arab men, prompting outrage from groups like the Association of Muslims and Arabs for Secularism in Quebec.
Attendees have accused the organizers of the annual parade, Saint Jean Baptiste Day, or Fete Nationale, of racial insensitivity. The video, which was captioned “I’m not sure the organizers of the parade understood the concept of diversity,” is currently making the rounds on social media.
Instead of backpedaling, organizers for the event called the backlash “exaggerated” and “unjust,” according to the BBC. Speaking to the Montreal Gazette, Maxime Laporte of the Société de St-Jean Baptiste de Montréal said it was an unfortunate coincidence that the men pushing the float were black, and that their race had nothing to do with their roles in the float’s presentation.
“We need to look at this situation as a whole,” Laporte added. “It was a wonderful parade that represented [Montreal’s] diversity. People need to make a better judgment call in these circumstances.”
The individuals pushing the float were teenage boys from a local high school. Steve Lubin, a football coach at the Louis-Joseph-Papineau High School, says the whole issue was blown out of proportion.
“When kids work hard, I don’t see color. I see participants,” he said. “It just so happens that my kids were working hard and that white people happened to be sitting on the float. If it was the opposite, would we be having this discussion? I’m not so sure.”