After Criticism, Trevor Noah Explains Why He Said That 'Africa Won The World Cup'

"In order to be French, you have to erase everything that is African?"

Earlier this week, Daily Show host Trevor Noah commented on France's World Cup victory by joking that "Africa won the World Cup." It was a reference to the African roots of many players on the French team. However, the comment didn't sit well with Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the U.S., who wrote Noah a letter. 

In the note, which was shared by the French Embassy on Twitter, Araud argued that "nothing could be less true" than Noah's comment about an African victory, adding, "Unlike in the United States of America, France does not refer to its citizens based on their race, religion, or origin." He claimed that by calling the players African, Noah was "denying their Frenchness." 

Noah, who is himself South African, read Araud's letter aloud during a break on the show, and went on to explain and defend his comment. He started off by challenging Araud's assertion that the various backgrounds of the players are a "reflection of France's diversity," arguing instead that it is "more a reflection of France's colonialism."

He said he understood that Araud's issue with the comment (as the ambassador shared on his own Twitter account) seemed to be that the far right in France will often single out people's African identity as "a line of attack" to say they don't belong in the country. However, the host explained that the sentiment of his comments (and others acknowledging the players' African heritage) was instead one of "celebration," and went on to stress the possibility of dual identity.

"This is what I find weird in these arguments, is that people go, 'They're not African, they're French!' Then I'm like, why can't they be both? Why is that duality only afforded to a select group of people?" he asked. "So what they're arguing here is, in order to be French, you have to erase everything that is African?"

Noah said he "vehemently" disagrees with the idea that you "can't be French and African at the same time." He added that this is what he loves about the United States, in that people can celebrate their individual heritage while still being American.

The host also pointed out the double standard in how people refer to African migrants in France depending on perceived "good" and "bad" qualities. "When they're unemployed, when they may commit a crime, or when they are considered unsavory, it's the 'African immigrants,' " he said. "When their children go on to provide a World Cup victory for France, we should only refer to them as France."

Noah connected this way of speaking to a recent story about Mamoudou Gassama, the Malian migrant referred to as the "Spider-Man of Paris," who scaled a building to rescue a child in the French capital. He was then offered a job with the fire brigade and a fast-track to French citizenship. 

"So when he was on the ground, he was African, and then he climbed up, and as soon as he rescued the baby, now he's French," Noah said. "So if he dropped the baby, the African dropped the baby?"

The host ended his monologue by pointing out the importance of context, arguing that "you can use the same line in different ways" and adding, "When I say they're African, I'm not saying it as a way to excuse them from their Frenchness, but I'm rather using it to include them in my Africanness." 

Watch Noah's full response to the ambassador's letter in the video below:

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