So what pops up in your mind when you hear the word ‘South Africa’? Hunger? Poverty? UNICEF? Nelson Mandela?
In a country where it was a crime for procreation and marriage between different races,
Trevor Noah was born and grew up where anti-miscegenation laws were in effect. Miscegenation is defined by Wikipedia as the mixing of different racial groups through marriage, cohabitation, sexual relations, or procreation that is perceived to smear the purity of a particular race. Anti-miscegenation is a prominent theme of racial supremacist movements, including white supremacy.
‘Born a crime’ is a story of a boy born under the Apartheid regime. Trevor throws unavoidable focus on apartheid – the perfect racism that existed in history. It took a hundreds of year to develop, starting in the 17th century when the Dutch first came to the Africas Continent.
The South African government set up a formal commission to go out and study any institutionalised racism all over the world.
They went to Australia, America, Netherlands, came back and published a report. Their government used what they learned from this racism what worked and what did not, to devise a system, the most advanced racial oppression known to mankind.
The British eventually took over, driving the Dutch settlers away from where they developed the Afrikaners culture.
After the British lost power, the white Afrikaners returned to power and enacted apartheid to control the mainly Black population.
Under Apartheid, the worst crime was to have sexual relations with a person of another race. If the child was born from different races, parents would be separated with the child to live in an orphanage, the black parent would be arrested and the white would be warned.
Government labelled everything on birth certificates: race, tribe, nationality. Anything that needs to be categorised.
Trevor was born in a mixed family, which his father is a white man and his mother is a black woman. Born a crime, them living together as a family was impossible and illegal under the law. His mother lied to others about his origins.
His father was not on his birth certificate.
Noah was born into this system of apartheid, the child of a Black Xhosa woman named Patricia who persuades Robert, a white man of Swiss-German nationality to conceive a child with her.
Since Noah’s very existence is evidence of criminal behavior, his strong-willed mother worked as a secretary when others worked in factories. She secretly rents an apartment in Johannesburg.
The story continued as he grew older and encountering more life events. Apartheid ended in 1994. Nelson Mandela was released a free man and came to lead the country. A black man was in charge. He came along and flipped the racist country onto its head. However, the stories of racism never ends. It is still rooted in the mindset of people and the country’s governing system.
The childhood story of Trevor is funny, unique and individual, yet balanced between personal and a historical narrative. Trevor Noah is today a South African stand-up comedian who currently works as a host of ‘The Daily Show’ on Comedian Central.