Trevor Noah Reflects on George Floyd Protests: 'Police in America Are Looting Black Bodies'
As protesters across the country demand justice for victims of police brutality and racism, Trevor Noah delivered a powerful reflection on the unrest in an 18-minute video.
The video, posted Friday on The Daily Show's YouTube account, has since amassed over 5.4 million views. Noah, 36, began by addressing Amy Cooper, a white woman who last month called the cops on a black man in Central Park after he asked her to leash her dog, per park regulations. (After video of the exchange went viral, Cooper, who has since apologized, was fired from her job.)
"What's really interesting about what's happening in America right now is that a lot of people don't seem to realize how dominoes connect — how one piece knocks another piece that knocks another piece, and in the end creates a giant wave," said Noah. "Each story seems completely unrelated, and yet at the same time, I feel like everything that happens in the world connects to something else in some way, shape, or form. And I think that this news cycle that we witnessed in the last week was a perfect example of that. Amy Cooper, George Floyd, and the people of Minneapolis."
"Amy Cooper was for many people, I think, the catalyst," he said. "Here you have this woman who — we've all seen the video now — blatantly knew how to use the power of her whiteness to threaten the life of another man and his blackness. What we saw with her was a really, really powerful explicit example of an understanding of racism in a structural way."
Noah went on to address George Floyd, whose death has sparked nationwide protests. The demonstrations began earlier last week in Minneapolis when footage of Floyd — an unarmed black man who died after a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck — began circulating online. In the video, three other cops stood by as Floyd said repeatedly he couldn't breathe and pleaded for the officer to stop.
"I don't know what made that video more painful for people to watch. The fact that that man was having his life taken in front of our eyes, the fact that we were watching someone being murdered by someone whose job is to protect and serve, or the fact that he seemed so calm doing it," Noah said. "There was a black man, on the ground, in handcuffs, and you could take his life, so you did. Almost knowing that there would be no ramifications."
"And then again, everyone on the internet has to watch this, everyone sees it, it floods our timelines as people," he continued. "And I think one ray of sunshine for me in that moment was seeing how many people instantly condemned what they saw. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that, especially not in America. I haven't seen a police video come out and just across the board — I mean, even Fox News commentators and police chiefs from around the country [were] immediately condemning what they saw."
All four officers were fired last week, and Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd's neck, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday. But as Noah pointed out, "for so many people, that feels like nothing."
"How many of us as human beings can take the life of another human being and have firing be the worst thing that happens to us? And yes, we don't know where the case will go, don't get me wrong. But it feels like there is no moment of justice," he said. "I think there's a lot of catharsis that comes with seeing that justice being doled out."
At times during the protests over the weekend, encounters between demonstrators and police have turned violent. There have also been outbreaks of vandalism and looters have destroyed stores and businesses. In his video, Noah called out those denouncing looting, insisting that "we need people at the top to be the most accountable, because they are the ones who are basically setting the tone and the tenor for everything that we do in society."
"I saw so many people online saying, 'These riots are disgusting. This is not how a society should be run. You do not loot and you do not burn. This is not how our society is built,'" he said. "But what is society? Fundamentally, when you boil it down, society is a contract. It's a contract that we sign as human beings amongst each other. We sign a contract with each other as people, whether it's spoken or unspoken, and we say, 'Amongst this group of us, we agree in common rules, common ideal and common practices that are going to define us as a group.'"
"If you think of being a black person in America, who is living in Minneapolis or any place where you're not having a good time, ask yourself this question when you watch those people: What vested interest do they have in maintaining the contract?" he continued. "Black American people watch time and time again how the contract that they have signed with society is not being honored by the society that has forced them to sign it with them. When you see George Floyd on the ground, and you see a man losing his life in a way that no person should ever have to lose their life, at the hands of someone who is supposed to enforce the law, what part of the contract is that?"
"There is no contract if law and people in power don't uphold their end of it," he maintained. "If the example law enforcement is setting is that they do not adhere to the laws, then why should the citizens of that society adhere to the laws when in fact the law enforcers themselves don't?"
Noah concluded by asking his white viewers to try to put themselves in the positions of black Americans.
"If you think about that unease that you felt watching that Target being looted, try to imagine how it must feel for black Americans when they watch themselves being looted every single day," he said. "Because that is fundamentally what is happening in America. Police in America are looting black bodies. And I know someone might think that's an extreme phrase, but it's not."
"George Floyd died. That is part of the reason this story became so big, because he died. But how many George Floyds are there that don't die? How many men are having knees put on their necks?" he continued. "It's only the deaths, the gruesome deaths, that stick out."