After France’s World Cup victory on July 15, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah made a racial joke congratulating Africa. The comment landed him in hot water with several fans including French ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud, who wrote the South African-born comedian a letter, critiquing his comments. During his Between The Scenes segment on Wednesday, he explained what happened and doubled down on his initial comments.
“France won the World Cup and so on the show we celebrated that, and I had this joke where I said, ‘Africa won the World Cup,’” Noah told the audience on July 16, referring to the fact that several of the French soccer players are of African descent. Sixteen of the 23 players on the team come from families who migrated from Cameroon, Morocco, Angola, Congo, Algeria or Zaire, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The host goes on to read Araud’s letter, in which he states, “I heard your words about an African victory. Nothing could be less true. As many of the players have already stated themselves, their parents may have come from another country, but the great majority of them, all but two out of 23, were born in France.”
Araud went on to say, “This, even in jest, legitimizes the ideology which claims whiteness as the only definition of being French.” It was a point with which Noah agreed, considering how French Nazis use the soccer players’ “Africaness” against their French identity.
However, outside of understanding parts of the critique, Noah continued to defend his comments and explain why he made them racial.
“My opinion is, coming from South Africa, coming from Africa, and even watching the World Cup in the United States of America, Black people all over the world were celebrating the Africaness of the French players. Not in a negative way, but in a positive way, go look at these Africans who can become French. It’s a celebration of that achievement.”
The political commentator also speakabout the importance of his remarks.”This is what I find weird in these arguments: People go, ‘They’re not African, they’re French.’ Then I’m like, ‘Why can’t they be both?'”
He also compares American identity to French identity. “That is what I love about America. America is not a perfect country, but what I love about this place is that people can still celebrate their identity in their Americaness.”
Noah ended his explanation saying, “I will continue to praise them for being African because I believe that they are of Africa, their parents are from Africa and they can be French at the same time. And if French people are saying that they cannot be both, then I think they have a problem, and not me.”
Watch the video in its entirety above.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.