Trevor Noah: What’s The ‘Middle’ Between White Supremacy And Equality?

By Robert Jones, Jr.

I respect Trevor Noah.

I respect the position he finds himself in and his attempts at trying to find common ground. It’s hard when your loyalties are split and so you have a particular, if peculiar, idea of where the “middle” is.

What I’ll need Noah to explain to me is this: What is the middle between white supremacy and equality for all? And does whatever that middle is benefit white supremacy or equality?

One of the things I dislike about Noah’s perspective is how it misrepresents false equivalence as balance.

I know that when it comes to racial matters, some people feel that they can “see it from both sides” and, therefore, “know the answer is in the middle.” If black people in the United States were in power equal to that of white people; if the laws and institutions and education and media dipped in favor of black people as much as it does white people, then there might be an actually middle to arrive at.

But you cannot start from a place where the scales are tipped in favor of one group and treat it as though the scale is level. Your answer will always be incorrect when your starting equation has one of the variables wrong.

When one side wishes to traffic in bigotry, superiority, and the right to rule over and dehumanize others, and the other side merely wishes to live in equity and with basic human dignity, it does the truth, and reconciliation, a great disservice to pretend that these are merely differences in opinions and perspectives holding equally moral weight and validity.

I’m of the mind that he should know better than to traffic in such superficial analyses. Given that he’s from South Africa, shouldn’t he know that Apartheid wasn’t merely a system that separated black people and white people (and created a third category, colored, for this who didn’t fit neatly in other of those boxes); it was also a system that designated black people as the inferior and lowest form of life, incapable of intelligence, and inherently savage and criminal, and, thus, not entitled to the rights the white minority were given, and subject to brutality and death at the white minority’s whims?

His very own mother was considered less human than his father. How can one leap over that existential condition to draw what are ultimately flawed conclusions about peace between opposing views? Would he really tell his mother that she needed to see it from the white point of view and realize that her desire to be free is equal to their desire to have her caged? That she should strive for some middle where if she’s accommodating enough to their desires and perspectives, the white folks might open the door to the cage every now and again even if she‘s still not permitted to leave it? As much as some of us black men hate black women, that he could ask that of his mother isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility, unfortunately.

However:

It’s not an “extreme” view to want to be regarded as a human being, to not want to be systematically oppressed, to not have violence and murder against you carried out by the ruling citizenry and sanctioned by the State.

What can the oppressed possibly say now that we haven’t already said in the five centuries we’ve been trying to get the oppressor to see us as human, only to be told: “Be quiet! Stop complaining! Your fate would be even more horrible if you lived somewhere else! Be lucky I’m not worse to you!”? How do you reason with those who lack both empathy and a conscience — for whom reason becomes a perplexing object they don’t have the wherewithal to discern?

I’m disappointed with any attempt at compromise that doesn’t grapple with that immutable reality.

P.S. I know this is petty and speculative and that Noah already has a girlfriend, but I also kinda low-key feel that this plea is his preemptive apologia to black folks to reconcile his attraction to that cruel, soulless, and vicious Missy Anne he had on his show the other day with his neoliberal approach to politics. Who takes racists to out to lunch and dinner, and then sends them cute cupcakes?

(EDIT/UPDATE: Trevor Noah says he didn’t send her cupcakes; his team did.)

Tomi Lahren’s Instagram account. She’s holding a cupcake. The caption reads: “When @trevornoah sends you cupcakes and you realize a mutual love of sugar might be the common ground you needed! #TeamTomi #thedailyshow #sweettooth #cupcakes #commonground”. Screen shot by David Dennis, Jr.
Tomi Lahren’s Instagram account. She’s holding a cupcake. The caption reads: “When @trevornoah sends you cupcakes and you realize a mutual love of sugar might be the common ground you needed! #TeamTomi #thedailyshow #sweettooth #cupcakes #commonground”. Screen shot by David Dennis, Jr.

What Noah is doing is precisely what bigots want. That’s why so many white people love his capitulating approach to institutionalized racism.

Bigots want to be able to dehumanize you and still have you regard them as humane, innocent, and deserving of fealty. Such recognition confirms their power and their senses of righteousness and superiority.

What bigot wouldn’t want to be able to spout bigotry and have the targets of their campaign give them delicious treats for their trouble?

That is literally the bigot’s wet dream. And there’s no honor in vying for the position of being a white person’s One Black Friend, the one that will co-sign on all of their bullshit and provide them with the reason they never have to confront or be accountable for their beliefs or behavior.

I don’t know what it is about many black men and how we feel this bizarre need to cape for even the most egregious and hateful of white women.

But the N*gg* Wake-up Call is coming in 5, 4, 3 . . .

(EDIT: And here it is.)

***

This story first appeared at Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

Lead image: YouTube

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