“Born a Crime” provides insight on South African society

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Trevor Noah is best known as the replacement for Jon Stewart at the Daily Show but the South African comedian is a talented writer, as well. In November of 2016, Noah released an autobiographical book, “Born a Crime,” which describes growing up in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. Not only is the book comical but it also has poignant commentary on South African society.

Noah describes his struggle growing up in South Africa with a black mother and a white father. South Africa at the time had a system known as apartheid set in place, which strictly and violently enforced racial segregation. It was illegal to have sexual relations with another race, therefore making a child like Noah illegal. Noah describes how he would walk down the street and not hold hands with his mother because people would know she had broken the law in order to have Noah as her child. One time at a park, Noah accidentally called his father “dad” and his father had to run away from him, to ensure his and Noah’s safety.

When Noah turned 11, Apartheid in South Africa officially ended, but the effects are still seen in South Africa today. Noah talks about how the segregation of Apartheid bled into his school, as children of one race would mainly hangout with member of their same race. Noah speaks of the difficulties he found being multiracial in society where race is defined one’s every move.

“Racism exists. People are getting hurt. And just because it’s not happening to you, doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” writes Noah. “And at some point you have to choose; black or white, pick a side. You can try to hide from it. You can say, oh I don’t take sides, but at some point, life will force you to pick a side.”

Noah’s story about growing up in South Africa provides insight on how a society had to transform from a minority-ruled, racism-fueled government into a free and open democracy for a diverse and changing nation. His story represents many of those black and mixed South Africans who struggled to live in their own country because of the racism and hatred of others.

At the same time Noah manages to tell funny and awkward love stories from his time in secondary school. In the end, “Born a Crime” is a book that will make you laugh while reflecting on South African society today and in the 1990s.

Photo Courtesy of trevornoah.com

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