My friend MaryAnn McKibben Dana wrote about Trevor Noah recently and my NYC kids and I had just seen a live taping of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah the day before. All three of us had also seen The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in previous years and – like child birth – I had forgotten how long it actually takes to transition from the uncomfortable waiting until The Moment when you get to see that long-awaited face.
One of the fun things about these shows is that – when you order the tickets – you have no idea who the guest will be. Last week we saw Spike Lee (interesting but not as scintillating as I expected although I loved his outfit) and in previous years, we’ve seen Jeff Garlin, Owen Wilson, and an academic figure I can’t remember. Dream guests: Michelle Obama, Claire McCaskill, and Aziz Ansari’s parents.
But this post is not about that. It’s about color.
If Jon Stewart had anything to do with the selection of Trevor Noah as the satirist who would follow him – or with the selection of Larry Wilmore for the program that follows The Daily Show – he is as On Top of Things as I always imagined. Yes, we need women as late night TV hosts, but we have long needed more color at least as much.
The world is colorful. I am increasingly aware that 1) if my world looks Just Like Me in every office, shop, theatre, and train I can become blind to reality and my perspective is sheltered and limited. And 2) our planet has got to come together and recognize each other’s humanity regardless of race, religion, creed, political proclivities, and gender or sexual orientation.
So, back to The Daily Show. When Jon Stewart was the host, the audience looked a bit like a hipster NPR crowd. Smart, sarcastic, left-leaning, well-educated. But last week, the audience was remarkably different and it was surely because the new host is not only funny and smart and poised, but he is a mixed race South African 30-something who speaks six languages.
The audience reflected this. In the pre-show conversation, audience members self-identified as being from Barbados, France, Greenland, Italy, Egypt, and South Korea. He spoke German with a German student. Racially, everybody was there. Religiously, I can only guess we were as diverse a crowd. There were several women wearing hijab.
It was a thing of beauty.
This is not just our future, sisters and brothers. This is our present and it’s a wondrous thing. When we live our lives solely with people who are Just Like Us, it’s easier to sort the world into Us and Them, Black and White, Christian and Not Christian, American and Foreigner. And it becomes easier to forget that the One whom we Christians try to follow was – himself – brown and Jewish and – like Trevor Noah – a polyglot (Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek) who would find Western Life foreign if not faithless.
We White people sometimes feel offended when others speak of our privilege, and yet here is what we can do with that privilege: open doors, seek out fresh voices we haven’t heard from, and thank God for diversity (because God created the world that way.)
Image is one of my favorite photos of FBC’s prom night nine years ago in Arlington, VA. This was, is and will be our world, thanks be to God.