Trevor Noah’s crazy path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such an action was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ blatant disregard for the law, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the younger years of his life, kept by the extreme and unusual measures his mother took to hide him from a Gov that could steal him away at any moment. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set off on a grand adventure, living openly and freely. Welcoming the opportunities won by a century of struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man, who struggles to find himself in a place where he never should have existed. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and extremely religious mother: a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse. The eighteen personal essays collected here hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting to whoever hold the book in their grasp. Whether eating caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death struggles of dating in high school, Trevor brightens his curious world with a clever wit and absolute honesty. His stories mesh together to form a moving and seemingly funny image of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time. Equipped only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, and unconditional love.
Although I haven’t read the whole entire book, the 3 chapters I did read really jumped out to me. which has made me even consider going out and buying the book myself.
When I first opened the book I came across the first chapter titled “Run”. Of course I had to begin my process with the first chapter so that I could better understand what I’m diving into.
“Run” that’s the first word I see. The further and further I read into this chapter i begin to understand what’s happening. The author, Trevor Noah began to explain how at age 9 he was thrown out of a moving car by his own mother. Why, I’m not yet sure at the moment, but when i came across that i froze and pondered on why his own mother would do that.. The only thing I could come up with was for his own protection. That was the only reasonable explanation. Continuing to talk about his up bringing he tells the reader about his family and their religious background. The white man has come to his village and has converted multiple people from their indigenous faith to Christianity, such as his mother. Which he never quite understood. His Grandmother on the other hand would fluctuate between the two. Praying to Jesus and communicating with his ancestors from time to time. The more and more he went to church though the better he understood Christianity. He said
“If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.”
He goes into saying how his childhood mostly consisted of church everyday except for Friday and Saturday. He explains how he went to 3 different churches because his mom said that they each provide her with something different and how each were racially different.
His home life was very closed off as well. He talks about how he wasn’t allowed to listen to “Boyz II Men” or anything other than gospel music to be exact, and how the only action movie he ever really knew as a child was the bible. He does say that black church was his favorite though just because he got to see the pastor attempt to cast demons out of people. He says,
“People possessed by demons would start running up and down the aisles like mad men, screaming in tongues. The ushers would tackle them, like bouncers at a club, and hold them down for the pastor. The pastor would grab their heads and violently shake them back and forth, shouting, “I cast out this spirit in the name of Jesus!” Some pastors were more violent than others, but what they all shared in common was that they wouldn’t stop until the demon was gone and the congregant had gone limp and collapsed on the stage. The person had to fall. Because if he didn’t fall that meant the demon was powerful and the pastor needed to come at him even harder.”
As I read further and further I finally got to the part I was waiting for: the story of being thrown for the car by his mother. He goes into talking about how the car wouldn’t start they day for church and then takes a brief turn to talk about second-hand cars and how they have been the mastermind behind his terrible childhood, saying
“Secondhand cars made me get detention for being late for school. Secondhand cars left us hitchhiking on the side of the freeway. A secondhand car was also the reason my mom got married. If it hadn’t been for the Volkswagen that didn’t work, we never would have looked for the mechanic who became the husband who became the stepfather who became the man who tortured us for years and put a bullet in the back of my mother’s head—I’ll take the new car with the warranty every time.”
He explains the relationship of him and his mom and how he got into a lot of mischief but all in all he kept returning to the car, saying how it wouldn’t start that day and how his mom wanted to get into a minibus, and how determined she was to do so. He then goes into talk about nelson Mandela and apartheid. How it was near the end, the riots, the bloody revolt all of it. The main thing that pulled me in was how his mother would go out into the streets bringing her kids with her during the riots yet was untouched by the blockades and rioters. Like they knew who she was. He said she had this look about her that she would give the rioters and the blockades a sense of “Let me pass I’m not involved in this shit”.
I’m finally get back to the main topic. Trevor and his mother were waiting outside for a minibus, Trevor almost nearly asleep while standing. His mom then suggests the hitchhike because no minibuses were in sight. So they get picked up by a car but are then cut of by a minibus. 2 men got out of the bus with weapons and yelled at the man saying
“why are you trying to steal our customers, why are you picking people up?”
Trevor’s mom then said they’d get in the bus so they’d leave the man alone. Once on the bus the man tried to lecture her about getting into a car with a man that’s not her husband. She told him to mind his own business and began to speak in Xhosa which really set him off. He began to yell at her and call her names as she continued to keep telling him off again and again. He continued to get more and more angry, speeding up his driving. His mother then tried to apologize and say he can let them off at an earlier stop and then man keeps saying no. That’s when she leans over to Trevor and tell him that the next time he slows down, their going to jump. So they did just that. Trevor, half asleep, was flung from the bus, his mom then jumped wrapping her arms and hand around the baby. They both are tumbling, Trevor wide awake now his mom says run, so he does just that. The men stopped the bus and tried to go after them but they didn’t stand a chance. Trevor still confused on what happened began asking questions when they finally stopped. His mom the told him that those me were trying to kill them and then it became a huge argument that ended in laughter. It was not till after the fact they stopped running did Trevor realize how much pain he was in. His mom on the other hand kept thanking god which made Trevor mad saying that this wasn’t a good night, and asked if god could come to their house next week which caused laughter and eased the argument. They then just sat laughing away the pain in the middle of the night out front of a petrol station on the side of the road.
Now I can already tell what you’re thinking, this kids still has 2 chapter to go! I promise i’ll make this one short.
“Go Hitler” was the next chapter that I began to read. The title of course made me laugh. It began with an introduction to 3 new Asian kids just joining his high school. Bruce lee, John, and Bolo. They all had a certain niche about them. They all formed together and sold pirated games, CD’s, mix-tapes, etc. They all played their own role in the group. It got to the point where Trevor was making over 500 every week. He was living large, so he thought. He even bought a cordless phone. One day one of Trevor’s friends stops by and sees him mixing all the stuff and suggest that he come over to his area and DJ an few gigs, so of course he agrees. His first gig was a new year’s eve party and they set everything up in front of his house. The whole street was packed from end to end by midnight. After that he started getting gigs in different towns. Since Trevor had the best gear he would sometimes play new music that nobody knew which created some problems. Nobody knew how to dance to them so they’d just stand around, but Bongani thought it’d be a great idea to incorporate a dance crew to show everyone the moves, and this is where Hitler come in. Hitler was Trevor’s good friend and was one of the best dancers in Alexandra. So at parties they would always bring him to competitions, dance battles, etc. Hitler was always there and everyone knew he had skill. Trevor said
“ People would start screaming and Hitler would jump into the semicircle and the crowd would lose it. Hitler would do his thing while the guys circled around him, shouting him on. ‘Go Hit-ler! Go Hit-ler! Go Hit-ler! Go Hit-ler! And because this was hip hop, the crew would do that thing where you shoot your arm out in front of you with your palm flat, bopping it up and down to the beat.”.
He tells us how someone could ever name their child that, and I finally got it. He said,
“But from colonial times through the days of apartheid, black people in south Africa were required to have an English or European name as well—a name that white people could pronounce.” Reading further down he continued to say, “ ..your European name was chosen at random, plucked out of the bible or taken from a Hollywood celebrity or a famous politician in the news.”.
Since black people weren’t properly educated, and whites didn’t talk to blacks how were they supposed to know what was going on in a white man’s world. During that time most black people didn’t even know who Hitler was.
The World Doesn’t Love You
The final chapter that i got into was “The World doesn’t Love You” clearly drawn to this chapter by the intriguing dramatic title. It begin with Trevor talking about the consequences his mom gives him and how they are the same no matter what. There was a universal signal in the ghetto Alex (Alexandra) that meant being arrested or locked up and that was clapping your wrists together to symbolize handcuffs being put on. Someone had asked him where Bongani was and he performed the action of clapping his wrists. He goes into talking about how his mom hated the hood because it didn’t push him to do better and how she would always say the typical black parent line about getting arrested and not to call them. When in reality instead of giving the “ultimate tough love” as he calls it sometimes they just need actual love because when doing this to teach your kid a lesson is usually there thought process, that lesson could turn into the rest of their life. Anyway, the story takes a turn to talking about driving illegal cars and how he’s able to go get a car from the backyard and some old plates so that he could drive it on the streets, but then while doing so he got pulled over. The officer came up to him and asked the usual question, “license and registration” etc. but he was frozen and couldn’t answer any of his question. He was surprised that the law was actually coming down on him since this was the first time it was really happening. He came to the realization that cops are dicks but in the end they’re doing a job. The cop ran the plates and he was arrested for suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle. There was no official owner of the car so the cops began to suspect he killed some to get the car. He was now looking at grand theft, and suspicion of carjacking and murder. Although he could of easily worked this out by calling his parents he didn’t because he thought it would make things worse, so he spent the night in jail. When he goes to jail a cop explained to him what was going to happen and that it wasn’t in his best interest to have it go down like that so he gave him an attorney business card. Not out of good faith, but because he had a deal with the attorney that allotted him some kickback time if he sent clients his way. The attorney agreed to help him out. He calls his friend to see if he can borrow money from his dad the pay lawyer fees and he said he’d handle it. He goes to sleep waking up the next morning hoping it all was a dream but it wasn’t. His biggest fear that night was being raped but he wasn’t in prison he was in jail and he soon came to realize that they were 2 very different things. When he went to breakfast he tried to think of stereotypes that would make him look like he belonged in jail because he didn’t want anyone to know he was just a kid in for carjacking. He figured they assumed he was the type of colored person that always gets sent to jail.
“I figured if I was in jail people were gonna think i was the type of colored person to come to jail, a violent criminal.”.
So that’s just how he acted. The longer he was in there he started thinking if everyone in there was faking it since it was working so well for him. He was so scared of what his mom might do if he went home that he even considered going to prison. He even devised a plan,
“I’ll do away for a couple of years, come back, and say I was Kidnapped, and my mom will never know and she’ll just be happy to see me.”.
Lessons on Power and Justice
The connections to our government now and in this book are endless, and I mean endless. You can take the first chapter for instance and look at Trevor’s mom as the first form of authority or government that Trevor knew. For all of us our respect of power and authority begins at home. In the book she made a fast acting decision which injured herself and Trevor, but in totality kept them both safe. A good government is one that acts quickly and decisively for the welfare of the people. Fast acting decisions are faced everyday by our government in situations that are far from ideal. Hopefully the decisions of our government are still made to keep us, overall as a nation, safe. A certain event you can take for instance is 9/11. All actions that happened that day, not just made by the president, but as well as loved ones of this country were all quick decisions. There was never a time to think. Many levels of government from the first responders of NYC to mayors, governors, military and even FAA air traffic controllers to President Bush had to act fast and decisively.
There are numerous accounts of racial profiling in this book, such as when the cop pulled him over even though he was breaking the law at the time the officer pulled him over for being black! That is something that still goes on today. My mom is a police officer and she has been pulled over numerous times just for driving while black because that’s how our society works, and it’s sick. From the white man trying to change people’s religions, to criminal businessmen who threaten the people that take their clientele from them, all the way to the riots in the streets due to the lack of social equality and unjustified rulers. That all still happens to this very day. We just had riots in the streets because of President Donald Trump.
Black people face prejudice from the police every single day. Trayvon Martin, Eddy Grey, Etc. you name it. Half the things I saw described in the book happen in our society today. The things he talked about in the book only look slightly different from our society today. Literally as I was reading I was able to make connection to things that have happened to our society in the present and not so distant past, and that just amazes me how nothing has really changed .
All in all I think this is an amazing book. All the thing he has to endure as a young child into adulthood are just so fascinating and so real. I Could never imagine having to go through these things at such a young age, I honestly don’t think I would be able to survive it. Its incredible how he even managed. When this book was first introduced to me by my teacher I didn’t at all think it would be like that and it honestly surprises me that my own teacher finds the book fascinating as well. It says a lot. I was only instructed to Read 3 chapter and i continuously found myself getting lost in the book wanting to continue into it, continuously getting off topic for the assigned task. All in all I personally loved it, and if you’re a kid, student, teacher, parent, anything, anywhere! I recommend this book to you. You have to read it, YOU MUST READ IT.