On Trevor Noah: America isn’t ready for news from an African

I must say, I'm not as familiar with the Daily Show as everyone else seems to be (I only have cable sporadically, don't judge). Still, when John Stewart was the star of the show, I would see many of his poignant and colorful videos being shared all over social media. Stewart seemed fearless in his critic of Fox News, the Democratic party, the George Zimmerman trial. His show seemed to be where rational Americans went to point and laugh at the nonsense that was radical conservatism. I could support it, and I could support it more when South African Trevor Noah was chosen to replace Stewart in 2015. YAS! An African leading the charge in a major television show that aired every damn day all across the country. I think the diaspora rejoiced in unison. Well, after a couple of months on air, it seems that The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is not doing as well as hoped. Slate.com writer Wila Paskin penned a lengthy piece entitled "Why are Americans Ignoring Trevor Noah", in which she emphasizes how "inessential" The Daily Show has become since Noah took over last year. [SHOCKER! You're telling me that a black immigrant is not as popular in American news as a white man? NO! That’s not the America I know! *rolls eyes* ]

She calls out Noah's seemingly "superficial" coverage of the El Chapo's arrest and the State of the Union address: "Noah often makes toothless jokes about physical appearances, from El Chapo’s bad shirt to a guy who looked like a “wizard” at a recent Democratic debate. The sight of one bespectacled tween in the crowd during the SOTU sent Noah on a reverie about an imaginary sitcom called “Senator Kid.” It was not a particularly funny flight of fancy, and it provided no analysis of the State of the Union." She continues with scathing comparisons between Noah and Stewart: "Where Stewart allowed himself to be a divining rod for the news, to feel it all and lose his cool accordingly, Noah is always smooth and telegenic, easy in his manner and on the eyes, never worked up, never letting things get too dark." The writer seems to feel that Noah is 1. not taking enough risks with his social commentary, and 2. falling short of any meaty analysis because he is not American.

Noah, just like many black people at the head of ANYTHING, is not completely autonomous in what he decides to share on live television. There are limits to Noah’s tenure on the Daily Show; he is not only navigating an American space, he is navigating a particularly white space at the same time. For these reasons, Noah could never be Jon Stewart. Stewart had the privilege of being a straight, white, American, man (hitting the jackpot on all demographic fronts) in his home country where people felt the most comfortable getting news from a face they trusted. Americans want to hear race jokes from Noah, they want him to highlight the racial inequalities in America vis-à-vis his African identity. They don’t want analysis of Obama’s State of the Union address from him. They do not want his opinion on the Flint water crisis. They want to hear about American news from an American (or at least a British white man for god sakes).

White men are often regarded as the experts of many cultures and political landscapes, but the writer of the aforementioned article asks, “How could Noah feel as passionate about the intricacies of the American political system as Jon Stewart, or any American? He just got here.” Isn’t it ironic, that most of Africa’s most noted historians and experts are white men who often times pen their African history books from their homes in Washington, DC? Isn't it ironic that as Africans, or other immigrants groups, we hardly ever question the "expertise" of white men telling us about our own countries? But in the case of Trevor Noah, he is an immigrant who could never be as passionate (read: knowledgeable) as a true blue American. So I ask, is America really ready to get their news from someone who doesn't look and feel like Jon Stewart?