The number of times late night hosts have had to sit in front of audiences now and discuss the killings of black men by the police is nauseatingly frequent.
And so last night, Trevor Noah spoke in a long segment on The Daily Show about the shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, in the wake of both that and the protests in Charlotte following the killing of Keith Lamont Scott. “People always ask me, they go, ‘how do you laugh when the news is sad?’… I tell people it’s not that I find things funny, it’s that my mind uses that as a tool to protect me from pain. And I always see that come up whenever there’s instances that pop up in the news. One of those instances was in Tulsa — a shooting. Another shooting. Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man in Tulsa, was killed by the police,” he began, describing the nature of the killing — how Crutcher was stranded because his car had broken down, how the police showed up, and how, ultimately, a man was killed, as it appears in the video, for being unlucky enough to be black while having a malfunctioning car.
“None of us were there…what we do know is this. It seems extremely easy to get shot by police in America. Which is not right.” Noah cuts to a clip of the officer — Betty Shelby’s — attorney explaining that it couldn’t have been a racially charged killing, because she’d recently been to a homecoming football game at an all-black high school. “Her lawyer’s defense has introduced us to one of the bigger problems that you face in America. In an American city, there’s an all-black high school, and that’s normal instead of weird? Living in a society where racial divisions are so deeply baked into every part of society that we don’t notice it anymore? An ‘all black high school?’ That’s a phrase that’s never followed by, ‘Oh you’re talking about the one in the nice part of town? Yeah, I know it.’ Racial divisions are so normalized in society that people possess a bias they don’t even know they have.'”
Noah explains that that cultural bias cannot be cured overnight, but the first thing people need to do is “not think black people are crazy for feeling oppressed when every time they see a video of themselves being engaged by the police, it ends with them getting shot.”
Noah calls out the policemen in the helicopter from which footage of the killing was taken — how, before it happened, as Crutcher was simply walking, one said, “That looks like a bad dude, too.”
“You can’t tell anything about this man from up there in the helicopter, except for one thing. He’s black.”
Watch the clip:
It’s so very crucial that this country takes the steps to demilitarize and train the police, so that a knee-jerk reaction to a black man with his hands up isn’t to shoot him. It’s so very crucial that these lives stop becoming hashtags and topics of discussion on late night television the following evening; until that happens, we will be listening to voices like Noah’s last night.