Trevor Noah on being African and Duality of Identity.

4 Min Read

What does it mean to be African? Trevor Noah on the Daily Show has schooled the whole of France, heck, the world! on what being African means.

A few days before this video where he responds to the French Ambassador’s letter, Trevor had congratulated Africa for a world cup victory.

Everybody knows France won, but sometimes petty is just one of the nouns that describes Africans.

With tags like “Colonialists must not win,” we know the world cup had a strong hold on a lot of Africans. Who foubd this opportunity to discuss the evolution of African Identity.

A large number from West Africa for example who had been colonized by England, continued to follow the Cup because England was still in the game. This doesn’t imply in any way that identifying with the Brits comes with any major benefits. One would think with all that history that some of these countries have, England citizenship or at least identity should be an added benefit. It’s difficult for many Africans to get even a visiting visa to England and hardly can a few afford to study in Europe. This limitations are not only Economic but strongly linked to identity.

As Trevor put it, when a black person does something terrible or not too savory, it’s labelled “African Immigrant.” As soon as an African struggles and finds his way to the top, these nations are suddenly not too reluctant to bestow them foreign identities but these identities come with a Price.

Even America which Trevor seems to credit with so much benevolence has it’s restrictions. Let’s not be too quick to forget immigrant children the Trump administration separated from their parents under its “zero tolerance” policy.

Back to France. Trevor responded to a letter from French ambassador Gérard Araud criticizing him for congratulating Africa on France’s World Cup victory. It’s not the criticism that’s the problem. It’s this idea that being African is such a thing that cannot be exclusive and combined with other forms of identity. We do not deny that the reality a lot of us have now, the reality a lot of those African French players have, is the result of colonialism. We are no longer just Africans, we are Africans with a history of colonialism and this cannot be erased. The same way, we have to get to that point where no matter the accolades showered on a black man for great feats done in the name of France, his Africanness is not denied.

What exactly is it to be an African? Being African is not about your location or the flag you fly or your Post Office address. It’s an identity you are given by birth and this cannot be erased, it shouldn’t be erased. It’s just as valid as any other identity you might be called to bear by reason of your profession or capacity in the world wherever you find yourself.

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