What Happens When a Black/Brown Face Takes a White Place

So I was planning on waking up Tuesday morning and congratulating my man Trevor Noah in a post for securing the job as the next host of The Daily Show. After all, I had seen his African American  special on Netflix, which if you haven’t seen yet you need to get on that, and I saw him live at the Gotham Club back in January where I laughed hysterically for the entire hour while hoping I made my train home to NJ in time. Then Tuesday morning I woke up, rolled over and opened to Facebook where I get all my news content and found out apparently he made some disparaging remarks about Jews and Women in the past *Insert Dramatic ‘NOOOOOOO’*. You are probably expecting me to condemn him and say he was wrong, some might even want me to call him anti-Semitic but I won’t. You see these comments date as far back to 2011 when Noah was 27 (A lot can happen in four years, just look at college students as Freshmen and then as Seniors). Regardless of the intent of the tweets which depending on your perspective can be offensive, a more important question is why are people combing through his 8,901 tweets in the first place? Just the fact that regular people, not news sites, did that says something. Moreover, the fact that the people that did this were mainly (if not entirely white) says something else. You are probably saying that “this had nothing to do with race, he is wrong from what he said and should resign because his is a misogynistic anti-Semite!” To you angry person I respond with it is about race because every time a non-white person takes over a position traditionally held by a white face you’d think the sky was falling, i.e. the election of the country’s first black president in the person of Barack Obama.

Now some of you might say that,  “it is only Republicans that had a problem with Obama as President, I voted for him,” and this statement and similar ones are false. I distinctly remember how vicious the campaign between Obama and Hillary Clinton was back in 2007-2008. I can’t find the clip but I remember at a Hillary Clinton rally where she brought some cop or something from Chicago to come speak to her supporters. When this guy was talking he placed an emphasis on Senator Obama’s middle name, Hussein. My 15 yr old self did not have the language to express why this was wrong but I knew it was. Looking back at the incident, I can see how that comment attempted to show how different and possibly untrustworthy this Obama guy was because of his Arabic name. In his comment this supporter of Hillary reduced Obama to not just having an Arabic middle name but more specifically being Muslim which meant that he wasn’t Christian  and therefore untrustworthy because Islam was the religion of the people who blew up the twin towers and who hated America therefore Obama hated America. Though my run-on can be seen as an exaggeration and someone can argue that  was not the guy’s intent, why else would someone say Hussein like that if not to connote a certain image? We have seen Republicans build on this imagery of Obama being different and untrustworthy with the whole birther movement which questioned his claim to being American born and as a result not meeting the requirements to be President. I have cited numerous examples before of how people either through articles or political cartoons have tried to show how President Obama was out of place in the white house (Let’s not forget the “put the white back in the white house” t-shirts for the 2012 Romney campaign). Even since his election in 2008, the statistics about race that came out following the events in Ferguson show that white people believe in a different racial reality than black people. Also how do we explain the increase of anti-black bias that has been coming out of the woodworks since Obama’s election in 2008? Mr. President can try to play balanced when it comes to racial issues claiming America is more racially united but as a black person *read as the person who is 21 more likely to get killed than a white peer* I ain’t buying it one bit. White liberals tend to excuse themselves from racial biases because they believe that because they voted for Obama, or because they have the token black friend that they are immune from the touch of white privilege and dare I say racism but as many black and brown people know white liberals sometimes allow the facade to fall and their racism to spills out.

If you noticed I have not used the “he’s a comedian” argument. Though I think this is a fair and important defense, I am cautious not to use it because people will attempt to use the same argument to justify racist jokes against black people or other people of color. For example the jokes shared in the emails within the Ferguson police department concerning black men, the President and Michelle Obama. I feel Noah as a comedian is given more leeway with political correctness, after all he pokes fun at the way African Americans and other black ethnic groups speak all the time with what can be classified as a stereotypical accents. It is true that if a white person did this black people would be more uncomfortable (Some white comedians can pull it off tastefully). So then the question becomes what is allowed in comedy? There was an episode of Everybody Hates Chris when Chris secretly listened to his parents’ Red Foxx album and laughed at the dirty jokes. We all have laughed at jokes that touched on controversial issues (I’m sure a lot of people, black people included, laughed at Kat Williams’s scathing jokes of Michael Jackson) so when does a comedian cross the line? There is the comment that Noah’s mother is part Jewish therefore his critics are reaching which I understand so does that exonerate him? Then what about his critique of a women’s body? These aren’t questions for me to answer but they are questions comedians have to deal with daily.

The truth is in the age of social media everything is up for scrutiny by anyone with an opinion. I don’t believe Noah is an anti-Semite or misogynist because if he was there would need to be more than four or five tweets to show that (Racists, even the subtle kind, make it obvious when they think that someone is less than them). This whole endeavor to me only shows the nature of white supremacy even more. As shown in the Obama example, the racial state will often use various methods, even if they appear left leaning, to curtail the advancement of people of color in spaces that have traditional been held by white bodies. All I can say at the end of the day is, welcome to America Trevor. You have made very astute jokes about American racism at work through people when they target you overtly but it is in these subtle moments where American racism truly manifests itself. My advice to you is just hang in there because despite the people wanting to use this as a moment to justify their disdain that you are taking over from Jon Stewart, there are more of us excited to see you bring a fresh taste to comedy which skewers American absurdity.

P.S. to the people comparing his treatment to the treatment of Paula Deen just take a seat. She wanted to recreate a slave plantation. You don’t get more racist than that.

I also recommend that people watch Mike Epps get series That’s Racist where comedians take a look at different racial jokes (a lot of which are funny). I have included the first episode below.

To lighten the mood, this is how I felt on Monday when it was announced he was taking over.


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