Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Trevor Noah has The Talk with viewers about police violence against Black people

Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah
Screenshot: The Daily Show

“It has been another week in America,” began Daily Show host Trevor Noah on Thursday, with the sort of deeply resigned wry gravitas signaling a piece on just how lousy a week it’s truly been. Continuing, Noah confirmed that fact, adding, “Which means it’s been another week of Black people being harassed or killed by the police.” Naming just two high-profile, caught-on-camera incidents of such police misconduct (Daunte Wright is dead, U.S. Army Lieutenant Caron Nazario was beaten and pepper-sprayed), Noah dutifully waded into well-explored waters as he attempted to unpack yet another week’s worth of documented proof that the experiences of policing are deeply, too-often fatefully, irrevocably different for not-white versus white households.

Explaining that, while the circumstances in Wright and Nazario’s assaults by police were different, their common origin as traffic stops was key, Noah went on to—gently but firmly—introduce to some (white) viewers the shocking fact that, for Black people in America, that vehicular annoyance is always “scarier than any Jordan Peele movie.” (Yes, even that one part in Us. You know the one.) Occasionally adopting his signature “skeptical white person” voice to introduce the predictably sickening Fox News talking point that, “Well, if you’re so scared of being pulled over, then don’t do anything wrong,” Noah—once more patiently—hipped (white) viewers to the concept of The Talk.

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Admitting that he, as a Black man, can’t speak to just how well-versed white people in this country are in just how standard a piece of parenting advice The Talk is in Black families (like, “laying edges” common?), Noah just cut to a truly eye-opening (for some) montage of Black parents making the wrenching choice to wise their young kids up to a daily fact of being Black. “Oh, I absolutely think it’s young—but not too early,” says one mom definitively after explaining how she’s sat her 8-year-old down and told them exactly how carefully they have to act around any police officer. (Another dad has his adorable 8-year-old daughter recite the hands-raised script he’s had her memorize for the inevitable day her first police encounter comes, which is pretty much the most heartbreaking thing you’ll see today. Probably.)

“Submit, obey, come home,” is how another father sums up his bluntly taught advice to his kids, while another admits that that sort of subservience is exactly the opposite of the advice anyone wants to give their child when it comes to standing up for what’s right, speaking their mind, and fighting against injustice. When the police lights appear in a Black person’s rear-view mirror in America, says Noah, “Every encounter between a police officer and a Black person is fraught with danger.” And even the cold comfort of posthumous outrage should the resulting traffic stop turn deadly isn’t going to bring back a dead child. It’s a truly sobering and shocking (once more, to some) fact of American life that Noah notes, gives Black children “more education about policing than actual police.” With numerous fresh weekly examples of The Talk having little effect in keeping Black people alive and un-abused hanging in the air around him, Noah concluded, “Maybe it’s not Black people who need a talk about how to act around the police. Maybe, just maybe, police need a talk about how to act around Black people.”

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.