Last month, I had the pleasure of going to my first live comedy gig, and it is safe to say that I was not disappointed. I had seen some of his previous work, so I knew what to expect. As a proud South African, Trevor Noah is known for his witty take to stories he experienced while in his homeland, which are more often than not sprinkled with a pinch of controversy. With a black mother and a white father, the challenges of being a mixed-race child growing up in a South African township mean that not surprisingly, race is one of the overriding themes in his comedy. Coupled with the fact that he has replaced Jon Stewart as host on The Daily Show, combining race with recent news issues seems somewhat appropriate.
He used his platform to highlight some of the sensitive issues in the world landscape and put a comedic or satirical spin on it - similar to what he does on The Daily Show. He also did something that I haven’t seen many comedians do; make a live audience at the Hammersmith Apollo – there to witness the comedy – listen intently and engage in real thought. I still remember that moment clearly. Noah on stage, finishing a joke that went down well in the audience, turning his intention away from making people laugh, to instead make them take his words seriously. The topic in question was racism due to the rise in terrorism. The rhetoric used in the last year was the focal point for Noah’s thought provoking words, which mimic most of the general population. “Most Muslims are not terrorists” he says, engaging a positive reaction from the crowd, in reference to the growing islamophobia because of the rise of the ‘so called’ Islamic State. It makes me think, why is a religion of peace facing backlash because of the actions of a very few select individuals? It gets worse when prominent figures like Donald Trump add fuel to this already burning fire by saying that America’s borders have to be shut to Muslims who wish to enter.
The constant sprawling about of this language in mainstream society has led to the rise of nationalist far right organisations like Pegida and the EDL. Common association between Islam and terrorism and grooming gangs has led these organisations to feed off of this information and use it to their advantage. The problem with this is mainstream media focuses far too much on these incidences if they involve Muslims, but not if they involve those who are white.
This ties in with the Trevor Noah gig (no, I did not forget about him). He ridiculed the language used by media outlets and more commonly, Police officers when describing a terrorist attack or an act of gun violence. He claimed that responsibility is taken off the shoulders of white people when then they are the perpetrator of a mass shooting, for example. He took the notion that these individuals are often categorised as being 'mentally unstable' or 'having no friends', which immediately wipes part of the responsibility off of their shoulders. In stark contrast, when we see radicalised Muslims carry out attacks, they are referred to as terrorists, and when there is a shooting involving a black person, it is often 'gang-related violence.' The pattern is there for all to see. Take Dylann Roof, for example, who Noah specifically refers to. After committing the murder of innocent worshippers who were peacefully observing their religion, he was allegedly offered a Burger King meal by Police officers while in custody, according to this article in the Huffington Post - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/23/dylann-roof-burger-king_n_7645216.html. What sort of sick joke is that? The blatant hypocrisy is rife, and it cannot carry on much longer. Martin Luther King would be turning in his grave if he saw what is going on in the world right now. We have come a long way since Civil Rights but there is still a long way to go if we are to eradicate this ‘disease’ that is among us. People should take note of what Trevor Noah is doing and use it as inspiration; make the most of your platform. If there is something worth debating about, do it.
You Sir, have earned my upmost respect.