When he took the “Daily Show” seat last year, Trevor Noah did not realize his job was merely to entertain, but to “eviscerate.”
In a poignant op-ed written for the New York Times, Noah writes how neither he nor Jon Stewart had any intention of becoming the Great Eviscerator, but that is what has happened in the current climate of digital news. While in his home of South Africa ― where he grew up mixed-race in a land of apartheid ― Noah realized that comedy “brings us together.” However, “[i]n America, it pulls us apart.” This only proved more truthful during the presidential election season, Noah writes, in which Trump capitalized on divisions.
“The past year has been so polarizing and noxious that even I find myself getting caught up in the extreme grandstanding and vitriol,” the 32-year-old writes. “But with extremes come deadlock and the death of progress. Instead of speaking in measured tones about what unites us, we are screaming at each other about what divides us — which is exactly what authoritarian figures like Mr. Trump want: Divided people are easier to rule. That was, after all, the whole point of apartheid.”
Noah pushed the need to meet in the middle, while not sacrificing individual commitments to social justice and equality. He continues:
Sadly, given what we’ve seen in this election, Mr. Trump’s victory has only amplified the voices of extremism. It has made their arguments more simplistic and more emotional at a time when they ought to be growing more subtle and more complex. We should give no quarter to intolerance and injustice in this world, but we can be steadfast on the subject of Mr. Trump’s unfitness for office while still reaching out to reason with his supporters. We can be unwavering in our commitment to racial equality while still breaking bread with the same racist people who’ve oppressed us. I know it can be done because I had no choice but to do it, and it is the reason I am where I am today.
When you grow up in the middle, you see that life is more in the middle than it is on the sides. The majority of people are in the middle, the margin of victory is almost always in the middle, and very often the truth is there as well, waiting for us.
Last week, Noah hosted conservative firebrand Tomi Lahren, infamous for her comparisons of the Black Lives Matter movement to the KKK, on his show. While some considered it a skewering, Noah called it a “conversation.”
“The conversation everyone seems to be having is: Do we live in bubbles? Do we live in a space where we are unable to understand or acknowledge the fact there are people out there in the world who have views that are very different to us?” he told CBC. “It seems fruitless to some, but ... the other alternative is to stay in those bubbles that you talk about. So why not have a conversation?”
Read Trevor Noah’s full op-ed over at the New York Times.