We are in the midst of a turbulent political period here in the United States, yet it is a moment not unique to Americans by any means. Following the election of Donald Trump on November 8, if you pay attention to even an iota of social media or digital news media, you will most likely have seen reports about an increase in hate crimes toward minorities especially. This uptick in violence and heinous discrimination was not isolated to one stereotypical part of the United States.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported a huge increase in reports of hate crimes following the election, with some sobering statistics. The majority were anti-immigrant or anti-black incidents, the top 3 reported locations were universities, businesses and K-12 schools, and an overwhelming number of reports came out of California.
The phrase “divided America” has never been more real. Yet, this is nothing new to American society. It was a mere 50-off years ago that African Americans could not legally vote or even occupy certain public spaces alongside white people. The mere act of showing up in the world as a person of color has become a political act, and we are seeing this more than ever.
Yet this is not a phenomenon unique to America by any means. In South Africa, their version of segregation was only legally abolished in 1994. Apartheid was the political and social system officially started in 1948 with the introduction of policy, but had unofficially been the way of life for centuries in the African nation. The freedom of political prisoner and activist Nelson Mandela, and his election as the first black president, by no means ended the racial divide in the country, in the same way the election of Barack Obama as the United States’ first black president healed the scars of the nation’s original sin, despite the progress we are making.
One person who has has straddled both these countries and experienced the upheaval himself is comedian and ‘Daily Show’ host Trevor Noah, whose 2016 election coverage was watched by many. The young South African late night celebrity often uses his show to compare some of the more absurd and outlandish aspects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to some of the dangerous acts he grew up seeing and learning about as a young boy in South Africa.
He has authored a new book called ‘Born a Crime’, the audiobook version of which we highly recommend, which explains how even his entry into the world was considered a criminal act. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away.
The end of Apartheid may have liberated him as a person of mixed race, but it brought about another set of struggles relating to his identity. Born in 1984, Trevor literally lived the first decade of his life as the living embodiment of a “criminal” act and political display of rebellion to the white authorities.
“Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality,” he writes in the book.
His fearless mother, who was very devoted to her religion, was determined to ensure her son grew up without the constraints of poverty and abuse that shackled her as young black woman. The fact that he is one of America’s most recognizable TV personalities today is the product of her fierce protection of Trevor.
“My mother refused to be bound by ridiculous ideas of what black people couldn’t or shouldn’t do. She raised me as if there were no limitations on where I could go or what I could do. When I look back, I realize she raised me like a white kid — not white culturally, but in the sense of believing that the world was my oyster, that I should speak up for myself, that my ideas and thoughts and decisions mattered,” writes Noah in an excerpt published by The New York Times.
In an interview with CBS This Morning, Trevor is asked about his thoughts on the US presidential election and his perspective is a reminder that race and identity, brought together in such a tense political environment is something almost everyone in the world can relate to.
“The biggest thing I have seen is that America is not immune to the ills of the world as it thought it was…America is that bastion of democracy…I think it’s sad that we’re living in a place where we’re normalizing and moving on so quickly from two glaring truths that were part of what happened in the election,” he said, pointing to racism and sexism, specifically the kind directed toward Hillary Clinton.
“There are people who put two things above everything else. That is whiteness and misogyny.”
While it is now America’s turn to take stock of the change beginning to unfold, and the familiar yet emboldened sting of racism that has now reached the highest level of office once again, Trevor Noah’s life story in South Africa is crucial reading.
And hey, if you are looking for a perfect holiday gift to send to someone “across the political divide”, or simply for yourself, the ‘Born A Crime’ audiobook is a must, especially while Audible are running a 30-day trial period along with the free download of Trevor’s memoir.
You can hear another audio sample from ‘Born A Crime’ below.
This is a sponsored conversation written by us on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all ours.