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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Trevor Noah's "Born a Crime" ...


(Edited - content and pictures added.)

I love Trevor Noah, I think he's brilliant, insightful, funny, and absolutely adorable :) 

I just finished his book, "Born a Crime," detailing his growing up in South Africa.




For those unaware of his history, his father is Swiss white and his mother is Xhosa black - which was illegal during apartheid, and Trevor was born in 1985 - five years before apartheid ended - thus the title of the book, "Born a Crime." 

(The strain of a mixed relationship during apartheid eventually proved too much for his parents.)

Also, his abusive stepfather shot his mother in the head, after she left him.  She miraculously lived, but his stepfather was never jailed for the crime, he walks free still, to this day - and threatened to kill Trevor, too, which is why Trevor moved to America.

And we're so glad he did come to America :)

Trevor became a stand-up comedian and currently hosts The Daily Show on Comedy Central, after Jon Stewart stepped down.




Though Trevor tells some hilarious stories, I couldn't help but still feel this profound sadness behind them, they're heartbreaking.  IMO, Trevor actually has a very big heart, but you're never going to see it, he always covers his pain and compassion with a joke. 

Besides the personal stories about his his growing up and never feeling he quite belonged to any group,  the things he and his mother had to do to survive, one thing that struck me was something Trevor and I had in common - Trevor came out and wrote exactly what I said in this post - that Christian women without husbands, or whose husbands are emotionally unavailable, absent, abusive, or addicted, often turn their concept of Jesus into a sort of surrogate husband.

In fact, his mother actually said that - that she considered Jesus her true husband, and thus really didn't need one, after Abel. 

Only I went further in my earlier post, than Trevor did - by stating this mentality actually becomes its own form of addiction.


However, though though Trevor doesn't come out and say this directly, he does hint at it -  as he states his mother attended 4 different churches every Sunday, all day on Sunday - including a Rhema-college-based Word of Faith Ministries megachurch in Johannesburg - which is exactly the same wing of charismatic evangelical church that my mother became addicted to - and Trevor became just as confused about Christianity as I did, Jesus versus what Christianity has become. 

(One positive thing I can say about this church, however, was what Trevor said about it - at least all races were welcome.  They still weren't looked to as leaders in the church, unfortunately, in my community, although we did have on youth counselor that was white,  and at least I was fortunate to have black friends in my youth group as well as white, and we all got along famously, we had a lot of fun - until we didn't, because of our youth pastor, but that's another story for another time :)

For Trevor, now tack on how well that fit in with already-existed animistic belief about witches and demons in the region in Zulu and Xhosa culture - plus tack on a South Africa that claimed to be predominantly Christian, but treated people of color in the way that they did, adding to that confusion.

Nevertheless, the book is essentially a love letter to his mother, but a very honest one - both about himself and her and their relationship -  the pretty and not so pretty - all the mistakes, the lessons both learned.


Then, of course, is thing that struck me most, in his book - the inequity and immorality of treating people differently because of the color of their skin or their faith, simply how absurd and illogical apartheid laws, ironically called "immorality laws" - that weren't abolished until 1990!




First of all, let me say that I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know about apartheid until college, when it had just ended. Though I supposedly went to one of the best public high schools in the country, no one ever once mentioned apartheid - ever.

It wasn't until I entered college that protests against South Africa were everywhere, and most of my classes were discussing it.

(Actually, I take that back - the first time I heard about apartheid was through music artists, Sting and U2 in high school, but I didn't know the details until college, because certainly, nobody ever talked about it where I grew up.)

I learned then that we came into their country and took over, and legally made them slaves and segregated second-class citizens - and I was blown away that this was still going on anywhere, in my lifetime - but especially in their country.
This is similar to what we did to Native Americans, only Native Americans weren't legally recognized as slaves, and there weren't Jim Crow segregation laws for Native Americans - plus we brought the slaves here.

That isn't to minimize the Native-American experience in any way, their experiences were equally horrific, though different experiences.


Trevor tells you even more from a personal viewpoint, which I researched and verified - that in South Africa still today, though not legally segregated, the way Johannesburg is built, it was meant to stay segregated housing wise, in the way it was built with civil-engineering, including physical barriers to prevent spread -  regardless of if segregation ever became outlawed or not.


So there were four legal social classes during apartheid - white, colored, black, and Indian (meaning East Indian). 

"Colored" in South Africa actually means biracial or mixed - BUT - in order to be legally in the colored class and neighborhood, and  thus have more relaxed apartheid laws and jobs, it meant the racial mixing had to have occurred before apartheid was in place, because race-mixing became illegal in South Africa in 1927, with an even stronger law in 1957 under the "Immorality Act." 

Ironic, isn't it?

Race-mixing was considered immoral, but beating, raping, enslaving, denying them voting and labor rights, and even killing people, because they of the color of their skin, is moral?

What passes for "Christian morality" in some supposedly Christian minds just floors me - it's the polar opposite of Christ's words and message in the gospels. 

And if you're asking if they checked how far back your race-mixing went, they certainly did.

All of which meant because Trevor's parents were of different races, he was literally "born a crime."  

He couldn't say take a walk with his white father and acknowledge him as "Daddy" in public - his father had to walk ahead and pretend not to know him.

He also couldn't walk with his black mother because he was lighter skinned than she was, so they had to borrow a "colored" neighbor to walk next to him so she'd look like the mother and his own mother would look like the maid.


If they did not do these things, they could be imprisoned for five years and fined for breaking the "Immorality Law" against race-mixing - and yes, that included Trevor himself, even as a child, though he had no choice in the matter  :(



Now - you could apply to up your status to colored or white, but you had to pass the "pencil test" - meaning they held up a pencil ruler to  compare your skin to it, to see if you were lighter, and even if you passed, you still had white status, but still with restrictions. 

Wow, that's some serious scientific determination, there, isn't it?

The most absurd thing was when Asians came to town.


Chinese and Korean people were legally given "black' status, but Japanese were given (limited) "white" status - based solely on the fact that South Africa was trying to open trade with Japan for cars and  technology.


Do you think your average flying-squad black-jack is going to know the difference between Japanese and Chinese on the street, getting on a bus, going to a white restaurant, or sitting on a white park bench? 


Honestly, at what point do you realize these laws cannot be observationally ascertained, and that virtually no one is of one pure race anyway, so these laws and mindsets are irrational and absolutely absurd?


Speaking of those flying squads, apartheid police could do whatever they wanted - break in your house and beat you, claiming you had committed some crime, even if you hadn't - they even had the authority shoot you with the same claim, no proof required. 


As we know, regardless of race, there is a strong correlation between chronic poverty/chronic economic deprivation that leads to frustration, crime, and aggression/violence, rather than race - and violent, drug-addled, crime-ridden places like Harlan County, Kentucky, which are 96% white, Republican Trumpers - are living proof. 


Additionally, in South Africa, the government did a very good job of dividing and conquering by using existing tribal feuds against each other to divide and conquer - so of course people of color tried to unite with force and take back their freedom -  who wouldn't?

And the fight for freedom isn't always textbook ethical - and that has nothing to do with skin color.

I'm not condoning that, mind you, but people do what they have to do to survive, especially when violence has been imposed upon them.

The Mandelas sometimes resorted to questionable means, but they got the job done - and South Africa is now legally desegregated - but socially, not so much :(


Just like here in America after slavery, there were Jim Crow laws , and even when they finally ended, that doesn't mean much changed in American minds about people of color.

Sure, you could go in a restaurant now, but that didn't mean anyone had to serve you.

Police can still profile, raid your home, and shoot you, little or no evidence required, just because you're black.


Thus, unemployment in South Africa is high for the same reason - though they can go to college now, who can afford it, and people won't hire them because they're still wishing for slave/cheap labor under apartheid.

Sure, there was 0% unemployment under apartheid - but that is because most worked for no pay or little pay as maids, etc. - duh!

If you were now able to get an education or a job post-apartheid, there was nowhere for you to move and go - because neighborhoods were still unofficially segregated - which had no way to expand or grow or evolve because the way they were built, kept them contained with civil-engineering barriers.


Also while reading this book, I couldn't help of thinking of all the whining and war-like mentalities of Trumpers, over stupid stuff like masks and vaccines - which are for public health safety - versus true restriction of freedoms, like living  under apartheid law, based solely on the color of your skin, just 30 years ago - and still exists in the social mindset today.

Because in doing so, you're only further exhibiting your white privilege, Karen-level, spoiled-brat upset, wanting to overthrow the government, just because somebody made you wear a mask or encouraged a vaccine.

(I really try to refrain from using the Karen moniker -  not because it's not true -  but because we have no male equivalent - despite the fact that most of our  current white male Republicans are are overprivileged. tantrum-throwing "Karens".)



For those of you unfamiliar with Trevor Noah, here's a little sneak peak on a fairly recent return to South Africa, driving through Soweto, as well as visiting his 91-year-old grandmother, whom he calls "GoGo," and still lives Soweto, the same way she always has, with  no indoor plumbing, shared public toilet with no plumbing and all - by her choice, as all her friends and family are there.


She tells a story, here, about what it was like to live under apartheid that chills you to the core - about digging with her hands to plant potatoes, for no pay, and if someone dropped dead from exhaustion, they simply made you bury them aright there in the planting row, digging a hole with your hands, and you had to plant potatoes on top of them,  and kept planting potato in the row - as if the dead person's life was worth no more than a potato :(


She also tells a story, mixed English and Xhosa (Trevor translates, as he can speak 6 languages, partly how he survived) about how the Soweto neighborhood children would run away from him out of fear, thinking he was white and was a blackjack or informant (although she rarely let him play in the neighborhood, because he would be arrested and imprisoned, just for being mixed).

She is so cute and spry, though, an absolute treasure - as is Trevor :)






As for his mother, Patricia, he has stated she will never be on the show, he's still very protective of her, both from his stepfather, who still walks free, as well as from press and social media.

These are the only known pictures of Patricia, two of them before Abel shot her in the back of the head -  the bullet passing entirely through her head, exiting near her nose,  miraculously missing her spinal cord by a millimeter and hitting no major nerves or blood vessels - and walked out of the hospital after four days.






 

Here is a rare picture of Patricia Nombiyuselo Noah, with just the slightest nasal damage from the bullet ... 



Trevor was, at that time, a fledgling comedian and DJ, and because his mother didn't have insurance, he maxed out his credit cards to pay for her surgery. 

And yet, his stepfather walks free to this day, given only community service for attempted murder :(


In addition to knowing that chronic economic deprivation leading to frustration and violence, we also know that there is a strong correlation between openly racist cultures and subcultures and domestic violence - and it is also not exclusive to any particular  race.


For example,  actress Charlize Theron's (who is South African and whose first language is Afrikaans) mother, after repeatedly being ignored for reporting Charlize's father to the police,  shot him in self-defense, as he was trying to shoot both her and Charlize, but she was acquitted.




(Yes, by the way - because of these similar experiences, Charlize and Trevor are close friends,  often collaborating on projects for South Africa - so much so that people have rumored they're a couple, but they are not - Trevor is dating actress Minka Kelly - though Trevor admitted once having a crush on her, Charlize and Trevor's relationship is actually more like brother and sister.)

Not so lucky was Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who the athlete shot and killed in their apartment. 






Thank you, Trevor - you may have been born a crime, but you,  your mother, and your grandmother are miracles :)

Thank you for giving us a personal peak inside your remarkable life and letting us know what it was like to truly live without freedom. 

I'm not sure how much better America treats you, considering there is not even a middle "colored" class, here - you're black if you have any color at all - but we applaud your success despite all your adversity in life :) 


In fact, there is a movie version of Trevor's book in the works, starring Lupita Nyong'o as Patricia - can't wait!






PS - Both Trevor Noah and Dave Chapelle have described the City of Lexington as "The Land of Charming Racism."

Very true - very passive-aggressive racism - which is actually the trickiest and hardest form of racism to combat -  because it's smile-in-your-face-and-praise-Jesus-but-stab-you-in-the-back kind of racism, so that even people of color themselves don't always know the white people here are racist, because the people here can't even admit it to themselves or express it behind closed doors, because it's "impolite" - so often, people of color here have no idea why things turned out the way they did/what the heck happened, because they think the white guy smiling  in their face isn't racist and their friend.

In fact, it's not just race - the entire Kentucky culture is passive-aggressive in general- smile in your face and seem friendly, so as not to be impolite - but stab you in the back or use someone else to do your dirty work.

My husband, from Detroit, gets so mad at some people here, for their  passive-aggressive ways, it weighs on him.

Just today, he was upset about something and I said:

"Believe me, I get it - try living here for 32 years.  Getting mad about this warped, passive-aggressive, backwards, unfair, overly conservative, supposedly "Christian," smile-in-your-face-stab-you-in-the-back  socioeconomic system only makes you look like the bad guy and "uppity" for getting mad at them about it, or labeled as "crazy" - plus if you stay that way over it, you may eventually make honest people of them lol.

 

"The only way I have learned to get through it - and this was just in recent years -  without losing your mind or staying chronically angry - is to redirect conversations to nonpolitical common ground just to get through the situations, and to avoid staying in the anger, you, simply tell yourself - 'Poor things - they simply don't know any better." 
"And they don't want to know any better.  Though very dysfunctional, they're in a in a comfort zone, and southerners are very resistant to change, they fear it like the plague, even if they know it's dysfunctional - both white and black - because the devil you know is better than the one you don't, so why rock the boat? Both races consider you a troublemaker if you so much as question it." 
"And it's not our job to teach them, as if we, as white people, have all the answers anyway - so let Lexingtonians continue to create the same scapegoats, over and over again, then continue to scratch their heads, wondering why things don't improve, until doomsday  - there's nothing we can do about it but vote, peacefully protest , and rant about it on my blog lol - and hopefully, move away when you retire - because there's not enough brave, public support here to change much of anything."


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