The twittersphere was ablaze with headlines that Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show had “dragged”, “eviscerated” and “destroyed” white supremacist darling Tomi Lahren in their interview on Wednesday night’s show when in fact the interview was a calm analysis of Lahren’s views highlighting her racism and hypocrisy. The interview, like Lahren’s with Charlamagne The God, excited me; we were again going to see what civility in the face of bigotry looks like. While I was proud of Noah and happy because he landed many a zinger upon Lahren the aftertaste wasn’t enjoyable- where do we go from here? NYMag.com published an article advising those who oppose Trump and white supremacy to learn “language matters” and how to engage those who hate us if we're to persuade them the lives of those who do not look like them or share their values have as much value and importance as theirs.
Trevor Noah is a vision of respectability in the face of modern white supremacy or the “alt right” as they preferred to be called. In my last post, I laid out why the onus of civility towards those who seek to oppress us belongs to them and yet I admire Noah's grace before ignorance. He is clearly astounded by what he’s hearing but he doesn’t “antagonise” her by calling her a racist, he calmly lays out why her argument is flawed, articulates with incredulity her false equivalency between the KKK and the Black Lives Matter movement and still Lahren is adamant her cause is just and fair. To what end do we continue to appease people like Lahren who see fit the continued disenfranchisement of those they disagree with?
Long before Noah when Jon Stewart was still the host of the Comedy Central late night talk show, he too interviewed guests, like Lahren, who were abhorrent in their views. Like Noah, Stewart used wit, humour and facts to undermine his guests’ arguments and call attention to their bullshit. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly was his most ardent opponent and the two regularly had each other appear on their respective shows. I can see Noah and Lahren might become this Millennial generation’s Stewart Vs O’Reilly but I, for one, won’t be watching any more of Lahren’s interviews should she accept Trevor Noah’s invitation to return to the show. I don’t want my mind to normalise her views or see them as acceptable. It’s not because I “live in a bubble” it’s because we are now living in a time where, according to the article in NYMag, to call someone racist is now considered “a slur” and that is a lie. Tomi Lahren and her white supremacist cohort are asking black people to prove their oppression when the evidence is there, on tape- I will not consume the normalisation of hatred and wilful ignorance.
We are at an impasse- I don’t know how this is going to be resolved. We cannot ignore the likes of Tomi Lahren- her anger and disdain for the empowerment of marginalised people, be they black, Latino, Native American or LGBTQIA helped embolden and radicalise white supremacists online. However, engaging with them doesn’t work either, “appealing to their values” doesn’t work because their values do not include compassion for people who are different from them. Where do we go from here?
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