Trevor Noah Recounts Apartheid Regime in South Africa at 33rd Miami Book Fair
By: Jaury Jean-Enard
The 33rd annual Miami Book Fair opened officially Sunday, November 13, at Miami-Dade College Downtown campus with the new host of Comedy Central’s Daily show, Trevor Noah.
Noah, who is from South Africa, recently replaced John Stewart on the Daily Show after being a frequent contributor to the program. Using humor and comedy as his platform, he intelligently told of the realities of Whites and Blacks in the US and abroad.
During a conversation with Bob Weiserberg, regional attorney for the Miami District of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Noah talked about his new book entitled Born A Crime. He recounts his upbringing during South Africa’s apartheid regime.
“I was born at a time … due to the laws of apartheid, my parents weren’t allowed to be in any shape or form in contact with one another,” said Noah. “We were governed by the laws of miscegenation … Interracial relationships were forbidden; the mixing of races was forbidden,” he added.
Noah was born of a South African Xhosa woman and a Swiss man. Such a union was illegal during apartheid and hence the title of his book. In public, his mother pretended to be his maid so to not get the attention of authorities. And his father was not allowed to be with them in public for fear that the illegal union of the parents would be discovered.
When asked by Weisberg how this impacted his interaction with his parents, Noah jokingly responded: “Luckily for me, I interacted with them like a child.”
He went on to recall rare instances when his mother and father were with him at the park:
“I would chase him [my father] as any child would. But then he would run away to protect us,” said Noah to a laughing crowd. “And then I was like, yea, the game is on. So I would chase him and then my mother would be chasing me,” he continued.
“So I, like many other children, have great memories of running in the park with my parents – the only difference is they see it from a slightly different perspective,” he closed.
In a more serious tone, Noah revealed his candid thoughts on apartheid saying it was “an abominable system.”
“Apartheid was perfect racism. It was a system designed to oppress a majority… The apartheid government was really (bis) committed to finding ways to do that. They studied racism from all over the world … and so they found that the key was to separate people into the most … miniature of the groups; finding ways to convince people that they were different even when they were not. So they didn’t see black as a monolith as it’s seen in America; they said no, we’re going to divide you up into tribe, … into shade…”
Later in the conversation, he said, “I wonder why racists don’t commit to making the world a better place.”
Noah who is polyglot in several languages including English, Zulu, German and Xhosa, talked about the importance learning languages to “gain entry into other worlds and insight into other ways of living and thinking.” He equally talked about the importance of traveling to remove ignorance and connect with people.
He ended his talk with dual effect of segregation and racism in Soweto (his township) which he says subsequently brought people closer to one another and created communities.
The Miami Book fair continues through November 20th with presenters such as US Senator Bernie Sanders and talk show host Tavis Smiley. The Book Fair also introduces for the first time ‘Read Caribbean,” a program featuring extensive Caribbean-specific events, including readings and panel discussions.