“How Does It Feel to Be Born a Problem?”

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2019-08-01 15:24Z by Steven

“How Does It Feel to Be Born a Problem?”

Contexts
First Published 2019-07-29
DOI: 10.1177/1536504219864959

Whitney N. Laster Pirtle, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of California, Merced

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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, Spiegel & Grau, 2016, 304 pages

How does it feel to be a problem? W.E.B. Du Bois posed this question over a century ago to critique American institutions that constructed being American as White, and therefore, made being Black an inherent problem in White America. Du Bois’s question was also a demand: that we reflect on and critique a system of racial oppression that teaches those in subjugated positions that their very being is problematic.

Interestingly, this is also a question that Trevor Noah, South African comedian and host of Comedy Central’s award-winning newscast The Daily Show, engages in his highly acclaimed memoir, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Though Noah is not a trained sociologist, he uses the complexity and absurdity of his life to tease out numerous sociological concepts. Throughout his odyssey, he places issues of race and identity at the forefront. The most salient question is what does it mean to be born a problem?

The book begins with an excerpt from South Africa’s 1927 Immorality Act, which deemed any “European” person who had intercourse with a “native” person “guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment.” It is no accident that Noah begins his memoir by citing this linchpin legislation that set in motion the apartheid regime in South Africa. During this period, distinct racial lines were drawn in order to enforce a rigid racial hierarchy privileging a small White ruling class and disadvantaging all others. If a society is to be structured along distinct racial lines, those lines cannot be blurred. As Noah puts it, “[b]ecause a mixed person embodies that rebuke to the logic of the systems, race-mixing becomes a crime worse than treason” (p. 21). Thus, when Noah’s African mother decided to have a child with a White Swiss-German man in 1984, their son’s birth was, in fact, a crime…

Read the entire review in HTML or PDF format.

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Local Stories Show Realities of Biracial Identity for People and Families

Posted in Articles, Audio, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2019-01-27 23:42Z by Steven

Local Stories Show Realities of Biracial Identity for People and Families

WAER 88.3 FM
Syracuse University
Syracuse, New York

2019-01-24

Chris Bolt, News Director

Elliott Lewis, Professor of Practice, Broadcast & Digital Journalism
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York

Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah is the featured speaker at Syracuse University’s Martin Luther King celebration this Sunday. Noah’s life story as the son of a South African mother and European father has struck a chord with many on campus. SU journalism professor Elliott Lewis explores the ways biracial Americans are answering questions of race and identity.

“I grew up in South Africa during Apartheid, which was awkward because I was raised in a mixed family …” wrote Trevor Noah in his book “Born a Crime”…

Read the story here. Listen to the story here.

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Tanya Katerí Hernández

Posted in Africa, Articles, Interviews, Law, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2018-08-21 02:40Z by Steven

Tanya Katerí Hernández

Writers Read
2018-08-09

Marshal Zeringue

Tanya Katerí Hernández is the Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, where she co-directs the Center on Race, Law & Justice as its Head of Global and Comparative Law Programs and Initiatives.

Her new book is Multiracials and Civil Rights: Mixed-Race Stories of Discrimination.

Recently I asked Hernández about what she was reading. Her reply:

I have been re-reading Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, in anticipation of the film version that Lupita Nyongo is slated to star in portraying Noah’s mother. The book has a special resonance for me as a comparative-race law scholar whose personal background as a black-identified mixed-race Afro-Latina traveling the globe informs her insights about the (in)significance of the growth of racial mixture to the pursuit of racial equality whether it be in the US, South Africa, or Latin America. Noah’s story of being mixed-race during and after apartheid ended in South Africa is both a poignant and humorous read (as you would expect from the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show)…

Read the entire interview here.

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Lupita Nyong’o To Star In ‘Born A Crime’ Based On Trevor Noah’s Memoir

Posted in Africa, Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Media Archive, South Africa on 2018-02-22 04:47Z by Steven

Lupita Nyong’o To Star In ‘Born A Crime’ Based On Trevor Noah’s Memoir

Deadline Hollywood
2018-02-21

Amanda N’Duka


REX/Shutterstock

EXCLUSIVE: Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, currently starring as Nakia in Disney/Marvel’s record-smashing, watershed hit Black Panther, has signed on to star in Born a Crime, the film adaptation of The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s bestselling debut autobiography Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

Nyong’o will play Noah’s mom, Patricia, who served as an important figure to her son in his formative years. She was shot in the head by his stepfather while returning from a church service in 2009, but survived.

Noah is producing the project through his Ark Angel Productions alongside Norman Aladjem, Derek Van Pelt and Sanaz Yamin of Mainstay Entertainment, and Nyong’o…

Read the entire article here.

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ENCORE | Trevor Noah on growing up mixed race in South Africa, ‘a product of my parents’ crime’

Posted in Africa, Audio, Autobiography, Canada, Interviews, Media Archive, South Africa on 2017-07-05 18:45Z by Steven

ENCORE | Trevor Noah on growing up mixed race in South Africa, ‘a product of my parents’ crime’

The Current
CBC Radio
2017-07-05

Anna Maria Tremonti, Host


‘Fundamentally, myself, my mother and my dad were considered different types of citizens under the law,’ says The Daily [Show] Host Trevor Host on living in a mixed race family in South Africa. (Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

Trevor Noah began his career as a successful stand-up comedian in South Africa. The Daily Show host has travelled a long way since then, but his humour is as biting as ever.

He brings that humour — along with candour — in Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, a new book about growing up mixed race in South Africa, facing prejudice and learning about survival and a mother’s love.

Noah was born in 1984 to a white father and a black mother during apartheid, which meant his family initially had to hide the truth from the outside world. He was largely kept indoors during the early years of his life, and when he did venture into public with his mother they had to pretend she was his caretaker. His father could never be seen with them in public…

Listen to the conversation (00:24:18) here. Read the transcript here.

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Trevor Noah: What’s the “Middle” Between White Supremacy and Equality for All?

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2017-03-31 00:24Z by Steven

Trevor Noah: What’s the “Middle” Between White Supremacy and Equality for All?

Son of Baldwin 
2016-12-07

Son of Baldwin (Robert Jones, Jr)


[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Trevor Noah dressed in a suit, seen from the chest up, smiling.]

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…

Read the entire article here.

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Trevor Noah, Colorism and The Unexpected Role He Plays In Expanding the Divide

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2017-02-11 03:27Z by Steven

Trevor Noah, Colorism and The Unexpected Role He Plays In Expanding the Divide

Atlanta Black Star
2017-02-05

Jared Ball, Professor of Communication Studies
Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

“He’s out to neutralize, not to awaken.” – Willa Paskin

The leadership of our School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University has encouraged that professors like myself find ways this semester to incorporate into our work the new book Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Noah is the South African-born, biracial, Colored comedian and host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. Copies have been distributed to students and faculty alike and I anticipate there being a flurry of engagement for courses in media studies as Noah’s book has plenty to offer.

Immediately we can start with critiques of false balance and Western politicized notions of objectivity, both of which were in play during Noah’s recent extended exchange with the aggressive right wing commentator Tomi Lahren. Many know of Noah’s nightly television work and it appears many more know him now after the straw woman performed her role in enhancing Noah’s credibility and right in time to coincide nicely with his book’s launch. What liberal aspirant to the throne of legitimacy wouldn’t want her as an interlocutor? Even in the silly film Pop Star Conner Friel (Andy Samberg) made sure his entourage consisted of a “perspective adjuster” whose sole function was to make the star look better by comparison. Muhammad Ali’s legend wasn’t born by his fights with Henry Cooper and Brian London. It were the fights with Liston, Frazier, Foreman and the federal government that told us he was the greatest.

We can also as a class ask, what is happening semiotically with the book’s cover? It read to me from the first like the perfect symbolic display of Noah’s entire political function as celebrity.  Noah’s beige face, askew, askance even – especially – with that grin, hand touching his head, painted on a tattered township wall, imposing, top-down upon a faceless Black African woman, almost saying, in an aloof, twisted version of the Old Spice commercial, “aww-shucks, look at me. Now look at you. Now look at me again. Now look at you. And back to me. I’ve made it and you can to? Never mind that. Look at me!” Its reminiscent of any billboard falsely advertising an exclusive lifestyle of which most onlookers can only dream…

Read the entire article here.

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Trevor Noah Still Doesn’t Get It

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2016-12-11 16:22Z by Steven

Trevor Noah Still Doesn’t Get It

BuzzFeed
2016-12-06

Tomi Obaro, BuzzFeed News Reporter


Trevor Noah (Paul Zimmerman / Getty Images)

The Daily Show host and biracial South African comic’s recent comments suggest a profound misunderstanding of the way racism works in America.

There’s many assumptions I’ve made about America that I’ve realized were wrong,” said Trevor Noah toward the beginning of his 2013 stand-up special, African in America. Slightly heavier than he is now and sporting a leather jacket and baggy jeans, this was Trevor Noah before he became the third host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and, by extension, the latest purveyor of a pervasive, noxious type of moderate liberalism.

“For one,” Noah said in the special, “I thought people spoke English here.” He paused, allowing for a few bouts of laughter. Then he flashed a smile. “Far from it. It’s just what Americans have done with the language you guys have, just, wow. You’ve done something, you’ve put 22’s on the English language. It’s got rims — it’s pimp my language.”

Then Noah launched into an anecdote about meeting a woman who wanted him to look at something. “She was like” — here Noah began wagging his head from side to side — “Oh my god, look over thurr!” he exclaimed, using African-American vernacular. It was a cringeworthy moment, indicative of a troubling reflexive tendency toward anti-blackness that Noah often seems blithely unaware of. And although he has moved away from this sort of overtly racist humor, his recent work as host of The Daily Show has shown that Noah still doesn’t quite grasp the reality — the frustration, the difficulty, the literally life-and-death stakes — of the black American experience…

Trevor Noah’s American breakthrough happened rapidly. He had appeared on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show only three times before he was tapped to replace him in March 2015. Before Noah even began the job, he was roundly chastised for some old, unfunny tweets about fat women and Jews, among others. But Noah was quick to put those things behind him: “To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian,” he tweeted later that month. Instead, he decided to embrace his perspective as an outsider. As the biracial child of a Xhosa mother and a Swiss-German father, he occupied a liminal space in his home country. “I’ve lived a life where I’ve never really fit in anywhere,” he told an interviewer in a 2011 documentary about his life, Born to Walk. And so his foreignness and his biracial identity became the primary lens through which he would approach his comedy in America…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Born a Crime,’ Trevor Noah’s Raw Account of Life Under Apartheid

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, South Africa on 2016-12-07 02:43Z by Steven

‘Born a Crime,’ Trevor Noah’s Raw Account of Life Under Apartheid

The New York Times
2016-11-28

Michiko Kakutani, Chief Book Critic


Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show,” in 2015. His memoir provides a harrowing look at life in South Africa under apartheid and then after that era.
Credit Chad Batka for The New York Times

As host of “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah comes across as a wry, startled and sometimes outraged outsider, commenting on the absurdities of American life. During the presidential campaign, the South African-born comic remarked that Donald J. Trump reminded him of an African dictator, mused over the mystifying complexities of the Electoral College system and pointed out the weirdness of states voting on recreational marijuana.

In the countdown to and aftermath of the election, Mr. Noah has grown more comfortable at moving back and forth between jokes and earnest insights, between humor and serious asides — the way he’s done in his stand-up act, and now, in his compelling new memoir, “Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Trevor Noah on Growing Up in South Africa Under Apartheid

Posted in Africa, Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, South Africa on 2016-12-03 23:22Z by Steven

Trevor Noah on Growing Up in South Africa Under Apartheid

Literary Hub
2016-12-02

Trevor Noah

“Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality.”

When the doctors pulled me out there was an awkward moment where they said, “Huh. That’s a very light-skinned baby.” A quick scan of the delivery room revealed no man standing around to take credit.

“Who is the father?” they asked.

“His father is from Swaziland,” my mother said, referring to the tiny, landlocked kingdom in the west of South Africa.

They probably knew she was lying, but they accepted it because they needed an explanation. Under apartheid, the government labeled everything on your birth certificate: race, tribe, nationality. Everything had to be categorized. My mother lied and said I was born in KaNgwane, the semi-sovereign homeland for Swazi people living in South Africa. So my birth certificate doesn’t say that I’m Xhosa, which technically I am. And it doesn’t say that I’m Swiss, which the government wouldn’t allow. It just says that I’m from another country.

My father isn’t on my birth certificate. Officially, he’s never been my father. And my mother, true to her word, was prepared for him not to be involved. She ’d rented a new flat for herself in Joubert Park, the neighborhood adjacent to Hillbrow, and that’s where she took me when she left the hospital. The next week she went to visit him, with no baby. To her surprise, he asked where I was. “You said that you didn’t want to be involved,” she said. And he hadn’t, but once I existed he realized he couldn’t have a son living around the corner and not be a part of my life. So the three of us formed a kind of family, as much as our peculiar situation would allow. I lived with my mom. We ’d sneak around and visit my dad when we could.

Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality. The only time I could be with my father was indoors. If we left the house, he ’d have to walk across the street from us. My mom and I used to go to Joubert Park all the time. It’s the Central Park of Johannesburg—beautiful gardens, a zoo, a giant chessboard with human-sized pieces that people would play. My mother tells me that once, when I was a toddler, my dad tried to go with us. We were in the park, he was walking a good bit away from us, and I ran after him, screaming, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” People started looking. He panicked and ran away. I thought it was a game and kept chasing him…

Read the entire excerpt from Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood here.

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