Complicated Relationship in "Born a Crime" by Trevor Noah

Essay details

The essay discusses the challenges that Trevor Noah, author of Born a Crime and host of “The Daily Show,” faced as a biracial child in apartheid South Africa. During the apartheid, it was illegal for a black and white person to have a child, making Trevor’s existence a crime. The essay explores Trevor’s complex relationship with his tough-loving mother, who raised him to be determined, and the struggles he faced with racism and segregation. His experiences of being biracial are also discussed, as he navigated the complex realities of being biracial in a seemingly “free and equal” South Africa. The essay examines the impact of culture on personality, and how Trevor’s experiences can be applied to everyday life, encouraging people not to give up and to find solutions to their problems. Overall, the essay highlights the struggles faced by biracial individuals and the importance of perseverance.
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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Role of Tough-Loving Mother in Born a Crime
  • Born a Crime: Growing Up Biracial
  • Conclusion


Trevor Noah, the author of the novel, Born a Crime, who also hosts the show, “The Daily Show,” faces a huge problem in his childhood and adolescent years in apartheid South Africa as a biracial child. When Trevor was born in 1984, apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s, was occurring. During the apartheid, it was illegal for a black and white to have a child. As a result, Trevor’s father, being a white Swiss, and mother, a black Xhosa, having a child was a crime in itself. As Trevor talks about the struggles in his life, the main problems that he faced were racism and segregation which caused controversies within his life.

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The Role of Tough-Loving Mother in Born a Crime

At the beginning of the story "Born a Crime", he describes his complicated relationship with his tough-loving mother, who escaped her own poverty-ridden childhood due to her determination to live a new life, an attitude in which she wanted her son to have. Trevor describes her as one who puts a lot of faith in God and Jesus as Trevor says in the Born a Crime novel, “We never missed church. My mother was and still is- a deeply religious woman. Very Christian”. She also puts faith that her son is consistently being challenged. Throughout the Born a Crime story, his relationship with his mother develops, as well as his experiences of being biracial. With Trevor being born illegally, he was forced to stay indoors by his family for most of his early life. Because he spent his life indoors for most of his childhood, he was unable to interact with others in his society. His family was the only people he interacted with for most of his childhood. For example, when Trevor and his cousins were playing a game where Trevor was a “doctor” and his two cousins, Bulelwa and Mlungsi, were his patient. While Trevor was “operating” on Bulelwa’s ear with a set of matches, he accidentally perforated her eardrum. He then states, “ My grandmother finished up with Bulelwa’s ear and whipped out a belt and she beat the shit out of Bulelwa. Then she beat the shit out of Mlungisi, too. She didn’t touch me”. Although Trevor caused the accident, he was not punished by his grandmother instead, his grandmother punished his cousins. As he gets into more trouble within his family, he was the only child to not get punished. Because of this, he was not able to experience what an actual punishment was like, unless it was his mother who was punishing him. Trevor was not really able to fix his problems of getting punished during his childhood because he never felt like suffering at the time. Trevor felt as if his childhood was just like every other child at his age because he did not know many people due to him staying indoors as well as being biracial changed him.

Born a Crime: Growing Up Biracial

As Trevor becomes an adolescent, he discovers the complex realities of being biracial. Trevor had to navigate the complex realities of being biracial in a seemingly “free and equal” South Africa. For example, he’s not totally accepted by some darker skin people and gains certain advantages for being perceived as white, such as the time he and a friend stole something and the friend, who was darker than he was, received much harsher sentencing. When Trevor is around whites, he is viewed as a colored person. In his society, Trevor finds himself confused and doesn’t know where he fits, due to being biracial. Trevor talks about a particular experience of which his black friend, Teddy, and himself, were caught committing an act of theft. When his school’s principal, Mr. Fredman, showed him a VCR that showed Trevor and Teddy running away from the act of theft. When looking at the video, his friend, Teddy, looked like a black while Trevor looked as if he was a white, due to the video being in black and white. With no suspicion, the principal asked Trevor, “‘Do you know of any white kids that Teddy hangs out with?’ I nearly shat myself. ‘What?!’. During this act of theft, his friend suffered serious consequences that Trevor barely escapes because of the paleness of his complexion. With Trevor barely escaping, he was left in shock, unable to know how he was able to escape. He describes his feelings by saying, “At a certain point, I felt so invisible I almost wanted to take credit. I wanted to jump up and point at the TV and say, ‘Are you people blind?! That’s me! Can you not see that that’s me?!’ But of course I didn’t. And they couldn't”. He even goes on and says to himself, “These people had been so fucked by their own construct of race that they could not see that the white person they were looking for was sitting right in front of them”. This just shows how Trevor was surprised and shocked by how the surrounding people had not known whether the “white” person in the video was him.


Most of the problems that occurred in Trevor's life can be applied to my life because there are a lot of problems within Trevor’s life in which he went through much tough hardship that he had to solve on his own. For example, when Trevor was in jail and his mother wouldn’t help him, he had to find his own way out of jail for a long time. Without the help of his parents, he decided to hire a lawyer in which he paid the lawyer with his own actual money to settle the case. And eventually, he was free and able to live his life. This shows that we should not give up and we should not allow the problem to defeat us. We have to try and solve this problem so that our lives can be successful instead of not solving the problem and being depressed.

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