Late night TV has flourished since Trump took office, mostly because people love it when their enemies are made the butt of jokes. But despite the Schadenfreude of watching Trump get sautéed by our country’s best professional joke-tellers on a nightly basis, it can at times feel a little pointless, too. Trump does something bad, Stephen Colbert makes fun of him, and nothing changes. Now let’s do it all over again tomorrow. Rinse, repeat.
But every so often, something happens between the hours of 11:30 PM and 1:30 AM that reminds us of the format’s potential as something far greater than a one-stop shop for Trump-related punch lines. Wednesday’s episode of The Daily Show had one of those moments.
Host Trevor Noah welcomed Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson and singer-songwriter Andra Day for a conversation about the ideological warfare that has been waged since the end of the civil war, by those wishing to preserve America’s “Southern heritage.” Stevenson made it clear that while slavery as a form of forced labor has long been abolished, American black people are still routinely forced to confront our nation’s ugly history.
“We’re burdened by a history of inequality that we have not addressed,” Stevenson said. “It’s become like smog in the air. We all breathe it in and it doesn’t take much to expose these conflicts and tensions.”
Stevenson was quick to point out that while countries like Rwanda, Germany and South Africa aren’t afraid to confront their checkered pasts, America seems intent on turning a blind eye, or worse yet, erecting statues in commemoration of it. And as white supremacists are more emboldened than ever thanks to Trump’s pre and post-Charlottesville rhetoric, a conversation about the “terrorism and violence” that black Americans have endured is more vital than ever.
“When you can see that truth, deal with those painful realities… it’s the only way we can move forward and heal as a country,” he said.
And to cap it all off, Day delivered a haunting performance of Billie Holiday’s civil rights anthem, “Strange Fruit”. It’s all required viewing, which you can do by cicking here.