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By Trevor Howard
Before Trevor Noah was taking comedic swipes at racism in America, he was a victim of it in Apartheid South Africa.
In his new memoir, Born A Crime, The Daily Show host reflects on his experience growing up the child of a black, Xhosa mother and a Swiss father when interracial relationships were illegal. So the title of his book isn’t just a rehash of an old joke — his birth really was a crime.
In an interview with NPR, Noah explained that his father was terrified of being caught with his son in public.
“My father was not holding my hand or anything because he couldn’t be seen to be the father of a mixed-race child,” Noah said when recounting a story from his childhood. “I’m running down the street and he’s running away because he doesn’t want us to get into trouble. I think I’m playing a game. What you don’t realize is that they’re basically running away from the law.”
Not only did racism impact his experience with the outside world — one in which he was never accepted — it infiltrated his own home. Later in the interview, Noah explained that his mother’s family treated him differently than his cousins.
“My grandmother and grandfather were very much from a world where they had been taught the importance of respect between the races,” he said. “So my own grandmother treated me as if I were a person of higher standing than they were.”