South African comedian Trevor Noah will replace Jon Stewart as host on “The Daily Show.” In his debut on the show last December, Stewart played the straight man as Noah compared race relations and poverty in Africa with conditions in the U.S. (watch the video, above). Guess who won?
In Africa Noah found a stretch of a superhighway and a shot of children in school that he compared with the F.D.R. Drive in New York City and children living in Detroit:
FDR / Central Africa
Kenya / Detroit
He also pulled in a clip of Nick Kristof saying
The United States right now incarcerates more African-American men as a percentage than apartheid South Africa did.
Right now the race gap in wealth between the average median white family and the median black family is eighteenfold. That’s greater than it was in apartheid South Africa.
“Africa is worried about you guys,” joked Noah. It was only partly funny.
What will it take to wrench America back to the principles and ideals that seemed immutable in the mid-twentieth century? We believed in America the Beautiful because it really was, before the oil spilled, the great forests fell to loggers’ saws and strip miners decapitated the mountains. We believed in Justice and Freedom even as the South lived under the rule of Jim Crow, much of the North had de facto segregation and the Greatest Generation fought World War II in segregated units. Fifty years ago we were bloodied by the struggle for civil rights. In the following decade women fought for the privileges men had always enjoyed.
Was there ever a time when the rich were considerate of the poor and politicians weren’t corrupt? Were we ever less venal than other countries? Were we ever justified in feeling morally superior to the rest of the world? Despite the self-deception (or lack of self-awareness) that blinded us to the inequities all around us, we believed that American democracy would save us and show the way to the rest of the world. We strived to form a more perfect Union.