White People Are A Little Too Damn Happy About Trevor Noah vs. Tomi Lahren
I wasn’t really expecting much when I saw that Trevor Noah would be interviewing white supremacist voicebox Tomi Lahren on the Daily Show. I’ve tried to give Noah a chance but his ability to grasp and articulate American racism has been inconsistent at best and offensively idiotic at worst. Just a couple of weeks ago, Noah tried to joke that Hillary Clinton is living the black experience. The monologue, based on trite stereotypes and played out Def Comedy Jam tropes, fell flat and failed to hit at the intricacies of race and gender in America. It was the latest in a long list of Noah’s shortcomings when trying to explain being black to his Comedy Central audience.
So it was quite the surprise to see Noah hold his own when squaring up with Lahren who, despite her innate ability to ignore any and all facts, speaks with a type of conviction that convinces idiots that she’s telling the truth. In other words, she never really lets on that she’s losing a debate in the way that, say, Trump’s figureheads seem to when they stumble over their words every time Angela Rye schools them. That’s why it was virtually impossible to expect him to “eviscerate” her despite what all of the glowing post-interview headlines said today. Still, Noah came prepared and hit some important points. He nailed her on the idea of not seeing color. He tried to articulate the danger in comparing Black Lives Matter to the KKK and asked the important question of “how should black people protest,” which zero percent of angry white people can seem to answer.
In the end, neither side budged. And they each sent cordial tweets to one another about how they’re such good sports.
This makes white people ecstatic.
What they got to witness was the open-minded discussion they’ve been clamoring for since Trump became President-elect. Fans of erasing identity politics who feel the need to reach across the aisle to white people who have no problem voting for a racist absolutely loved watching this debate. And I’ve seen far too many articles celebrating the back-and-forth as some sort of prototype for future discussion. Because, to them, this was a fair exchange of ideas. Noah got his jabs in. Lahren was made to look somewhat silly. Nothing changes and everyone can laugh at the traffic light joke and move on.
But here’s the problem. Lahren and Noah didn’t just have a debate with an equal exchange of ideas. They weren’t debating how to increase GDP or who’s the best team in the NFC. They debated topics that are literally life-threatening to people who look like Trevor Noah and me. Tomi Lahren spouted violent propaganda on national television while Noah tried to get her to value his black life. That’s not a healthy debate. That type of conversation shouldn’t be celebrated. And it damn sure isn’t Trevor Noah’s job to convince a white person why he shouldn’t die.
Tomi Lahren, in the course of 26 minutes, argued that black people are 18 times more likely to kill police (this statistic is nowhere to be found). That a liberation movement in America is tantamount to a group of people who murdered countless people over the course of the 20th century. That the same liberation movement has advocated for and succeeded in murdering police officers. All of these statements are literally life-threatening to black people. She’s saying things that contribute to the deaths of black folks across America. This is not just two people arguing political beliefs. This is one person defending his right to live on national television while a person with a dedicated following spouts lies about why he is a threat to society.
But to white people, whose lives aren’t in danger in the way Trevor Noah’s is, this was an entertaining joust that reaffirmed whatever stances they have on a multitude of issues and made them feel good about the belief that we can just talk away hatred without doing anything to actually deter it. And once again, the onus is placed on the black person to defend himself. If liberal white people are so delighted by the “demolition,” then they should feel just as happy to speak up and quell Lahren and her followers before she’s able to drop propaganda on a national TV audience. And damn sure before she says anything to a black person. The fact Trevor Noah was able to face Lahren on his show wasn’t as much a celebration of his ability to cordially talk to her as it was a failure by the same white people so delighted in the debate to check her and her hatred before it became a national phenomenon.