I was overcome by this monologue by Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, about George Floyd's death, the protests, and the burning of Minnesota. I wish everyone could hear these words about racial injustice in America, the gravity of them, the passion in them, the life-or-deathness of how we must change, and ask themselves the questions Noah asks.

Imagine to yourself, if you grew up in a community where every day someone had their knee on your neck, where every day somebody was out there repressing you every single day. You tell me what that does to you as a society, as a community, as a group of people....

And so to anyone who watched that video, don't ask yourself if it's right or wrong to loot. Don't ask yourself, what does looting help? No, no, no. Ask yourself why it got you that much more, watching these people loot: because they were destroying the contract that you thought they had signed with your society. And now think to yourself, imagine if you were them, watching that contract being ripped up every single day.

 

Ask yourself how you'd feel.

I wanted to see his words on a page and to look at them in written form, but I couldn't find them online, so here is the transcription in full.

Hey, what's going on everybody?

You know 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. 

 

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 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, and by the way I should mention that all of this is like against the backdrop of coronavirus, you know? People stuck in their houses for one of the longest periods we can remember, people losing more jobs than anyone can ever remember. People struggling to make do more than they can ever remember, and I think all of that’s compounded by the fact that there seems to be no genuine plan from leadership. Like, no one knows what's gonna happen. You know, no one knows how long they're supposed to be good, how long they're supposed to stay inside, how long they supposed to flatten the curve. No one knows any of these things.

 

And so what happens is you have a group of people who are stuck inside, all of us, our society, we're stuck inside. And we then start to consume, we see what's happening in the world and I think Amy Cooper was one of the first moments that, you know, one of the first dominoes that we saw get knocked down post-corona for many people. And that was a world where you quickly realized that, while everyone is facing the battle against coronavirus, black people in America are still facing the battle against racism and coronavirus.

 

 And the reason I say it's a domino is because, think about how many black Americans just have read and seen the news of how black people are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, and not because of something inherently inside black people, but rather because of the lives black people have lived in America for so long. You know, coronavirus exposed all of it.

 

And now here you have this woman who, we've all seen the video now. Blatantly, 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. When she looked at that man, when she looked at Cooper and she said to him, "I'm gonna call 911 and I'm gonna tell them there's an African-American man threatening my life." She knew how powerful that was.

 

And that in itself is telling, you know? It tells you how she perceives the police. It tells you how she perceives her perception or her relationship with the police as a white woman. It shows you how she perceives a black man's relationship with the police and the police's relationship with him. It's, it was, it was really, it was, it was, it was powerful.

 

'Cause so many people act like they don't know what black Americans are talking about when they say it, and yet Amy Cooper had a distinct understanding.

 

She was like, Oh, I know. I know that you're afraid of interacting with the police,because there is a presumption of your guilt. Because of your blackness. I know that, as a white woman, I can weaponize this tool against you, and I know that by the time we've sifted through who was right or wrong, there's a good chance that you will have lost in some way, shape, or form.

 

And so, for me, that was the first domino. And so now you're living in a world

where so many people are watching this video. So many people are being triggered, because in many ways it was like a, it was like a gotcha. You know? It was like the curtain had been pulled back, aha, so you do this. Cause it's always been spoken about, but this was like, it was powerful to see it being used. And I think a lot of people were triggered by that. A lot of people were like, "Damn. We knew it was real, but this is like real, real." You know?

 

I think a lot of people were so angry that some of the outrage that came to her was because of her dog. And I mean, I get it, you know? But… a lot of people felt like it would have been great if the dog shelters had the same, I guess, power or if police departments were run by the people who run dog shelters because they seem to act like this: they didn't waste time. They were like, "Nope, we'd like our dog back, lady." Which, I'm gonna be honest, I think was, that was a hell of a punishment. Her job is one thing. Taking a white lady's dog?... That was a nice dog.

 

Yeah, so that was the first domino, you know? It was the first domino where I felt like you could feel something stirring. And all of this, again, is in the backdrop, backdrop. Coronavirus has happened. The numbers have come out. You know, the story of Ahmad Arbery in Georgia. That story has come up, all of these things are happening.

 

And then the video of George Floyd comes out, and 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, you know?

 

Oftentimes we're always told that police feared for their life, threatened, and you know what? You always feel like an asshole when, when you're like, "You didn't fear for your life. How, why did you fear for your life? How did you fear?" But now more and more we're starting to see that it's like, no, it doesn't seem like there's a fear. It just seems like you can do it so you did it: 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.

 

And, and I think, one ray of sunshine for me in that moment was seeing how many people instantly condemned what they saw. You know? And maybe it's because I'm an optimistic person, but 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 see across the board. I mean, even Fox News commentators and police chiefs from around the country immediately condemning what they saw. No questions, not what was he doing, not just going, no, this, what happened here was wrong. It was wrong. This person got murdered on camera. 

 

And then the police were fired, great. But I think what people take for granted is how much, for so many people, that feels like nothing, you know? How many of us, as human beings,

can take the life of another human being and then 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 just, it feels like there is no moment of justice… You know, if you're watching a movie, you at least want the cops,

you'd want to see the perpetrators in handcuffs. You want to see the perpetrators facing some sort of justice. Yes, they might come out on bail, et cetera, but I think there's a lot of catharsis that comes with seeing that justice being doled out. 

 

When the riots happened, that for me was an interesting culmination of everything. 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 and this is not how our society is built." And that actually triggered something in me, where I was like, man, okay. Society, but what is society?  And 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 ideals and common practices that are going to define us as a group." That's what I think a society is, it's a contract. And, as with most contracts, the contract is only as strong as the people who are abiding by it. 

 

But if you think of being a black person in America who is living in Minneapolis or Minnesota 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? Why, like, why don't we all loot? Why doesn't everybody take? Why doesn't… because we've agreed on things. There are so many people who are starving out there, there are so many people who don't have.  There are people who are destitute, there are people who, when the virus hit, and they don't have a second paycheck, are already broke, which is insane, but that's the reality.

 

But still, think about how many people who don't have—the have-nots—say, "You know what? "I'm still gonna play by the rules, even though I have nothing, because I still wish for the society to work and exist." And then, some members of that society, namely 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 watch Ahmad Arbery being shot and you hear that those men have been released and, were it not for the video and the outrage, those people would be living their lives. What part of the contract is that in society? 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?

 

And a lot of people say, well, what good does this do [to loot]? Yeah, but what good doesn't it do? That's the question people don't ask the other way around. What good does it do to loot Target? What does it, how does it help you to loot Target? Yeah, but how does it help you to not loot Target? Answer that question. Because the only reason you didn't loot Target before was because you were upholding society's contract. There is no contract if law and people in power don't uphold their end of it.

 

And that's the thing I think people don't understand sometimes: is 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. It's the same way we tell parents to set an example for their kids, the same way we tell captains or coaches to set an example for their players, the same way you tell teachers to set an example for their students. The reason we do that is because we understand in society that if you lead by example, there is a good chance that people will follow that example that you have set.

 

And so, 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? There's a really fantastic chapter in Malcolm Gladwell's book, David and Goliath where he talks about the principles of legitimacy. And he says, "In order for us to argue that any society or any legal body or any power is legitimate, we have to agree on core principles." And those three principles, if I remember correctly, is number one: we have to agree on what the principles are. Number two: we have to believe that the people who are enforcing the principles are going to enforce them fairly. And number three: we have to agree that everyone in that society is going to be treated fairly according to those principles.

 

It is safe to say, in this one week alone, and maybe even from the beginning of coronavirus really blowing out in America, black Americans have seen their principals

completely de-legitimized. Because if you're a black person in America right now and you're watching this, if you're a black American person specifically and you're watching this, what principles are you seeing? 

 

I think sometimes the thing we need to remember, and it's something I haven't remembered my whole life. I like you start to learn these things, you know? When you travel the world, when you read, when you learn about society—is that like, when you are a have and when you are a have-not, you see the world in very different ways. And a lot of the time people say to the have-nots, "This is not the right way to handle things." When Colin Kaepernick kneels, they say, "This is not the right way to protest." When Martin Luther King had children as part of his protests in Birmingham, Alabama, people said, "Having children at your protest is not the right way to do things." When he marched in Selma, people said, "This is not the right way to do things." When people march through the streets in South Africa during apartheid, they said, "This is not the right way to do things." When people burn things, they say “It's never the right way.” Because there's never, there is never a right way to protest, and I've said this before, there is no right way to protest, because that's what protest is. It cannot be right because you are protesting against a thing that is stopping you.

 

And so I think what a lot of people don't realize is the same way you might have experienced even more anger and more just visceral disdain watching those people loot that Target, think to yourselves, or maybe it would help you if you think about that, 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. Because that's fundamentally what's 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 because here's the thing I think a lot of people don't realize: George Floyd died. That is part of the reason the story became so big, is because he died. But how many George Floyds are there that don't die? How many men are having knees put on their necks? How many Sandra Blands are out there being tossed around? We don't, we don't [know]! It doesn't make the news because it's not grim enough. It doesn't even get us enough anymore.

 

It's only the deaths, the gruesome deaths that stick out.

But imagine to yourself, if you grew up in a community where every day someone had their knee on your neck, where every day somebody was out there repressing you every single day. You tell me what that does to you as a society, as a community, as a group of people. And when you know that this is happening because of the color of your skin. Not because the people are saying it's happening because of the color of skin, but rather because it's only happening to you and you're the only people who have that skin color.

 

And I know there's people who'll say, "Yeah, but like, well, how come black black people don't care when black people kill." Man, that's one of the dumbest arguments ever. Of course they care. If you've ever been to a hood anywhere, not just in America, but anywhere in the world, you'd know how much black people care about that. If you know anything about under-policing and over-policing though, you would understand how that comes to be. The police show black people how valuable their lives are considered by the society, and so then those people who live in those communities know how to or not deal with those lives. Because best believe, if you kill a white person, especially in America, there is a whole lot more justice than is coming your way than if you killed some black body in a black neighborhood somewhere.

 

And so to anyone who watched that video, don't ask yourself if it's right or wrong to loot. Don't ask yourself, what does looting help? No, no, no. Ask yourself why it got you that much more, watching these people loot: because they were destroying the contract that you thought they had signed with your society. And now think to yourself, imagine if you were them, watching that contract being ripped up every single day.

 

Ask yourself how you'd feel.

- The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, uploaded May 29, 2020

It's Time To Re-Write This Social Contract

Transcript of Trevor Noah's monologue on George Floyd, police violence, racial injustice and the Minnesota Protests​

May 2020

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