Halfway through the first day of his sold-out UK book launch, Trevor Noah confesses: “I set out to write a book about my life. A book that would chart my life growing up in the townships of South Africa. Instead, I wrote a book chronicling my mother’s greatness. I wrote a love letter to my mother.” And this is indeed what Born A Crime is – a testament to the triumph a mother’s love and strength. This book is a celebration of the steadfastness of Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah; a woman who would not be bowed.
Apartheid’s Perfect Plan: How The Terror That Tore Apart Was Greater Than The Ties That Bound
One of the hardest parts of the book launch was being surrounded by White people while listening to Trevor Noah discuss the heartache of Apartheid. I would like to think I do not hold every white person responsible for the unspeakable crimes committed against the Black Man over the years. Personally, I have dated more than one white man. Sometimes, I even find it offensive when people who have never experienced racism pull the race card at every given opportunity. I try to think of myself who judges people by the content of their character and not the colour of their skin. But Lord knows it was difficult to resist the seed of anger unfurling in my heart.
The things that were considered normal: violence on, subjugation and tyranny of the Black Man in his own home, for generations on end, beggar belief. And even as my heart breaks for my fathers and their fathers before them, the hurt is not just relegated to the past. Every single day, there is racism. The laws have long changed, but the hierarchies stay in place. The constructs are unchangeable. The White Class is still the Upper Class. They know better; they are better. So deep was this belief in Trevor’s family that his own grandmother would not spank him for fear of bruising a white child. I long for words to explain the colossal strength required to “see beyond colour” but all I’m left with is: oyinbo, una no just try at all. Una way no pure, no be today.
The Power of Shame! We Must Mock and Rebel Against Everything That Is Wrong and Unjust
I was blown away by the depths of Mr Noah and how much thought he had given the situation of the world. Some say he is milking the apartheid thing. Certainly he was born towards the tale end of The Oppression, and he didn’t, by his own admission, get too rough a deal out of it. But even if his versions are exaggerated for creative license, there is no denying that the life he narrates was the life of MANY south Africans in those dangerous times.
One of the most powerful tools I took away from the conversation was the power of satire and mockery. It is of vital importance that we continue to thumb our noses at violation of the human soul. Even at our lowest ebb, we must be able to look at ourselves and think “This can’t be life. This ain’t right!”
Trevor Noah accredits shame with being a big factor in the fall of apartheid. As the Blacks struggled on, and the grave injustices of the inhuman whites were being laid bare in front of the whole world, the South African government had to bow to the shame of their actions. As Noah himself says, shame is powerful because it is an implicit acknowledgement that what you are doing is wrong.
The greatest sign of victory for the oppressor is a crushed spirit. People so broken, either by propaganda or the oppressors whip, that they accept their lives as normal. There must always be a gathering of people strong enough to say “You cannot police my soul. You cannot change the words upon my heart with the filth from your pen. You cannot have me.”
It is a small victory for the oppressed, certainly. But it is the only victory that counts.
Speaking Out Against Oppression of Every Kind
Not satisfied with flouting the laws of an apartheid South Africa, Trevor Noah’s mother went on to flout other laws. Perhaps stronger, deeper entrenched laws: the laws of patriarchy and the command of silence. Married to a man who could not abide her liberal and unbowed ways, he beat her with bicycle frames. When Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah still stood up to him, he shot her. The bullet shattered her jaw, pierced her skull, nose and ear, leaving her unable to speak properly. Miraculously, no vital organs were hit and she did not even require surgery. Stitched up and back at work within a week, she continues to speak out against domestic violence.
It would seem the apple does not fall very far from the tree. Trevor could not be more perfect as the host of The Daily Show, the hit TV programme he inherited from Jon Stewart. America seems to be sliding once again into a racial schism. A divide caused by uncertainty and fear, being widened by rumour mongers and oppressors, is starting to take a hold of America. And Trevor, with his satirical wit and acute observational skills might be in the right place at the right time to put his powers to good use.
To mock the wrong and uphold the right. He might have been Born A Crime, but Trevor Noah just might be part of the vehicle to help put everything right.
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