Fifa World Cup: Trevor Noah responds to French ambassador criticism over ‘Africa won’ joke on Between The Scenes
The Daily Show host defends comment that ‘African won the World Cup’ with thoughtful monologue after being accused of racism by France fans
Trevor Noah’s feud with a French diplomat has rumbled on after the host of The Daily Show defended joking that “Africa won the World Cup”.
The South African comedian was accused of racism over his comments in a segment on the late night US television programme this week, after France beat Croatia 4-2 in the Russia 2018 final.
While 16 of France’s 23-man squad have African heritage, all but three of the players were born in France, and all three moved to the country with their families at young ages.
Noah’s comments attracted criticism, including an open letter from Gerard Araud, the French Ambassador to the US, on the French embassy Twitter account.
Noah read out the ambassador’s letter to his studio audience during a commercial break on Wednesday, which was filmed along with his response and posted as a “Between The Scenes” clip on The Daily Show’s official social media accounts.
“‘I heard your words about an ‘African’ victory. Nothing could be less true’,” Noah read from Araud’s letter.
“‘As many players have already stated themselves, their parents may have come from another country but the great majority of them … were born in France. They were educated in France; they learned to play soccer in France; they are French citizens.
“‘They are proud of their country, France. The rich and various backgrounds of these players is a reflection of France’s diversity’.”
Pausing to speak to his audience, Noah commented on the letter: “I’m not trying to be an a******, but I think it’s more a reflection of France’s colonialism.”
Noah continued to read the ambassador’s letter: “‘France is indeed a cosmopolitan country, but every citizen is part of the French identity and together they belong to the nation of France.
“‘Unlike in the United States of America, France does not refer to its citizens based on their race, religion or origin. To us, there is no hyphenated identity, roots are an individual reality.
“‘By calling them an African team, it seems you are denying their Frenchness. This, even in jest, legitimises the ideology which claims whiteness the only definition of being French’.”
Noah then defended himself, launching into a thoughtful monologue that lasted several minutes.
“My opinion is … black people all over the world were celebrating the African-ness of the French players. Not in a negative way but in a positive way, as in, ‘Look at these Africans, who can become French,” Noah said.
The South African said it was “weird” to suggest you can’t be both African and French, or that immigrants and their children must erase their African cultures to become French.
“I love those players and I love how African they are and how French they are,” he said. “I don’t take their French-ness away, but I don’t think you need to take their African-ness away.
“That’s what I love about America. America’s not a perfect country, but what I love about this place is that people can still celebrate their identity in their American-ness.”
Noah continued: “This is what I find interesting, is like, when I read stories from Africa and I watch what politicians say about African migrants when they are unemployed, when they may commit a crime, or when they’re considered unsavoury, they are ‘African immigrants’.
“When their children go on to provide a World Cup victory for France, we should only refer to it as France.”
The comedian then pointed to Mamoudou Gassama, a 22-year-old African immigrant who was given French citizenship after a video of him went viral scaling four floors to rescue a child that was dangling from a balcony.
“When I’m saying ‘African’ I’m not saying it to exclude them from their French-ness, I’m saying it to include them in my African-ness. I’m saying, ‘I see you, my French brother of African descent’,” Noah said.
“I will continue to praise them for being African because I believe they are of Africa, their parents are from Africa, and they can be French, because I believe they can both at the same time,” Noah added. “And if French people are saying they can’t be, then I think they have a problem and not me.”
French ambassador to the US, Gerard Araud, did not buy Noah’s explanation, though. “End of the argument” Araud wrote in tweet to Noah.
“He didn’t refer to a double identity. He said >>they are African. They couldn’t get this suntan in the south of France >>. i.e They can’t be French because they are black. The argument of the white supremacist.”