“Africa won the World Cup!” Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show joked this week after France’s win. 

Noah continued:

“I get it, they have to say it’s the French team. But look at those guys. You don’t get that tan by hanging out in the south of France, my friends. Basically, if you don’t understand, France is Africans’ backup team. Once Senegal and Nigeria got knocked out, that’s who we root for.”

Trevor is, of course, referring to the fact that 16 out of 23 of France’s football players are of African descent. Center-back Samuel Umtiti moved to France from Cameroon at two years old. His teammate, Steve Mandanda, moved from the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the same age. Midfielder Thomas Lemar also migrated from French territory Guadeloupe as a child.

These players are still undoubtedly French. However, the Daily Show ‘s host’s light-hearted comment unintentionally sparked a debate regarding identity.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud swiftly sent Noah a letter letting him know that “nothing could be less true.”

Araud stated:

“The rich and various backgrounds of these players is a reflection of France’s diversity. Unlike in the United States of America, France does not refer to its citizens based on their race, religion or origin. To us, there is no hyphenated identity, roots are an individual reality. By calling them an African team, it seems you are denying their Frenchness. This, even in jest, legitimizes the ideology which claims whiteness as the only definition of being French.”

 

Trevor Responds to Criticism from the French Ambassador

Trevor responds to a letter from French ambassador Gérard Araud criticizing him for congratulating Africa on France’s World Cup victory.

Posted by Between the Scenes on Wednesday, July 18, 2018

 

France is known for its laïcité, which literally means “secularity.” Often referring to a rejection of religious symbols, laïcité is a concept which is based on citizens conforming to a singular French identity, regardless of factors such as ethnicity or religion.

Due to this ideology, it is not strange that French people may take issue with Trevor’s joke. Although Trevor is South African, he presumably believes in the American ideas of race and nationality.

 

There is no true American identity.

Noah expressed that he found the anger surrounding his comment strange. He argues that people can simultaneously be two things at once.

“Why can’t they be both?” Noah asked. “Why is that duality only afforded to a select group of people?”

Noah continued:

“What they’re arguing here is in order to be French, you have to erase everything that is African? America is not a perfect country, but what I love about this place is that people can still celebrate their identity in their American-ness. And if French people are saying they cannot be both, then I think they have a problem – not me.”

The comedian’s remarks came a day before President Obama used France’s football team to exemplify the fact that race is not the most important factor in any given society.

“Just ask the French football team that just won the World Cup,” Obama said during a speech honoring Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. “Not all of those folks looked like Gauls to me. But they’re French! They’re French.”

 

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons.