Born a Crime: the Detrimental Effects of Withholding Education

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Education Can Define a Person’s Path in Born a Crime
  • Apartheid's Black or White Model
  • Stylistic Elements in Born a Crime
  • Conclusion


In Born a Crime, Trevor Noah states “a knowledgeable man is a free man” and explains how Apartheid in South Africa worked by racially segregating education (Noah 61). Black children were not afforded the same quality of schooling as the white children, they were often taught trade skills by underqualified teachers who were barely literate themselves (Noah 61). Bantu schools were created with restrictions put in place for what needs to be taught in order to receive government funding. If the school did receive financial assistance from the government, the amount that was put into a black child's education was significantly less than that of a white child. The Apartheid government spent an average of 1,211 rand per white child opposed to only 146 rand for each black child (Boddy-Evans, Alistair). Though Apartheid succeeded in debilitating many people's minds, there were also those like Nelson Mandela and Trevor's mother, Patricia, who knew knowledge equalled power and prevailed in a higher education. Although Noah was biracial his mother made sure he received a better education than that of the Bantu schools. With education came wisdom, awareness and attention of the racial injustice thus, helping citizens to see the hypocrisy of racism and Apartheid. Noah uses logos, ethos, and pathos to show how withholding education during the Apartheid policies was detrimental to the minorities.

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Education Can Define a Person’s Path in Born a Crime

Education is an influential step in the direction a person's life will go. Trevor Noah uses Logos to show his readers that during Apartheid the governed laws surrounding education were shamefully racist and restricted what the black Africans were taught during school. Instead of a single public school system that supported equality for all African children, the Bantu schools for the black children created an unequal opportunity as to the education they would receive despite their capabilities and ambitions. The government knew that knowledge made people yearn for more so, their laws made sure not to educate the people they saw as inferior races. Science, history and civics were withheld in order to stifle their knowledge and in turn their ability to make themselves a better life. The lessons they were taught were often dictated in the form of childish songs, no matter the students age. Even a highschool student would be taught the materials, the same way a toddler would be taught a rhyming song, in order to remember something. If they did graduate high school, most couldn’t afford the tuition to go to an university and jobs were limited. This made for a very high unemployment rate and a lot of people ending up in the criminal world. As Noah states, “He has been given more potential, but he has not been given more opportunity. He has been given an awareness of the world that is out there, but he has not been given the mean to reach it” (Noah 208).

Apartheid's Black or White Model

During Apartheid everything became black or white with very little in between. People were either white, which equalled a superior race and education or they were an inferior race if their skin had any other pigment forcing them into Bantu schools. As someone who grew up biracial in South Africa and is a famous comedian who’s known around the world, Noah uses his own personal experiences to show ethos throughout his book. One of the more prominent examples he uses to show how prejudiced everyone was is of him stealing and the principle was completely color blind to him being caught on video surveillance during the theft. Although Trevor was very clearly seen on the video reaching through the gate with Teddy and both of them running towards the exit only Teddy was identified as the black kid and they thought his accomplice was white. They were too blinded by race to pay attention to the obvious details that pointed directly towards Trevor being the other thief. Even though the video was blurry there were apparent indicators, like the fact that he was not only Teddy’s best friend but his only friend. He wasn’t even suspected because “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” (Noah 159). If the racist laws of Apartheid had not embedded in everyone’s mind that race was the primary factor for distinguishing someone apart from others perhaps they would of noticed his face, stature, mannerisms and the common sense factors linking him to the shoplifting.

Stylistic Elements in Born a Crime

Throughout Born A Crime, Noah shows several instances of pathos when he uses humor, sympathy and anger to connect with his readers on an emotional level. Several of his stories invoke these feelings as we feel the reality of him growing up during this bleak time. As Apartheid was ending schools began integrating and Trevor transferred to H. A. Jack Primary which required him to take an aptitude test before attending. During his meeting with the schools counselor he was informed “You’re going to be in the smart classes” (Noah 57). When he arrived at his classroom on the first day he noticed out of around thirty kids in the class almost all of them were white with the exception of maybe three other minorities and himself. When recess came around and he got to the playground he quickly realized that black kids like himself were actually in abundance at the school. He ended up going back to the counselor and requesting to be moved to the other classes so he could be with the kids he related the most too, the black kids. The counselor proceeded to argue with him and tried to convince him that he didn’t want to be in the other classes “because those kids are… you know” and “those kids are gonna hold you back. You want to be in the smart class” (Noah 59). Although segregation and the racist laws were coming to an end, these black children had not been given the education or the opportunities in the past to make it into the so called smart class. After so many years of oppression the white families were able to provide their children with a higher standard of education and better resources which was not an option for the black families. Noah references all of this when he’s writing of his friend Andrew and how he had helped him become successful with his CD and DJing business. Because of Andrew being white his family had access to many things that Trevor was never afforded the luxuries of. “My family had been denied the things his family had taken for granted. I had a natural talent for selling to people, but without knowledge and resources, where was that going to get me?” (Noah 190). I believe Trevor was trying to conjure empathy and madness by making this statement because it’s still a harsh reality for many people today. Lower class citizens and the poor all around the world will often remain stuck in the same position, not because they don’t have the ambition to improve their lives but because they don’t have the means to do so.


Many black Africans grew up with little hope of a bright future, not only during Apartheid but also after it’s ending due to the fact that education was withheld and therefore didn’t open doors of opportunity for them. These racist laws and their outcomes showed Noah “how important it is to empower the dispossessed and the disenfranchised in the wake of oppression” (Noah 190). Although many of these citizens had the drive to create a better life for themselves, when they were freed from the ludicrous prejudiced laws of Apartheid they weren’t given the resources to do so. They weren’t awarded an education as children outside of common trade jobs so even after they were released from the racial restrictions of Apartheid they had no way to get a more profitable job. Education is the foundation to almost every great success around the world and everyone needs to take note of that. Every single person should be able to receive a great well rounded education regardless of race, location or their financial situation. Without an universal code to equal education rights for all, minorities and lower class citizens will always remain behind the rest. 

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