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Trevor Noah asks why ‘good’ cops aren’t speaking out against racist violence

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The U.S. is once again — or more accurately, still — wrestling with its inability to deal with the issue of police violence against Black people. Daily Show host Trevor Noah, who as a biracial man hosting a late night current affairs comedy show has devoted a lot of time to making bleak jokes during deep dives into this issue, ditched his usual WFH studio setup for his phone camera on Wednesday night to share an exhausted, bemused question he’s been pondering.

“Where are the good apples?”

The refrain of “a few bad apples” is brought up constantly when a cop kills or injures a Black person. It’s part of a range of phrases deployed to suggest that there’s no systemic issue in policing in America, and it’s almost invariably shorn of the idiomatic context — you know, the part where those bad apples spread their rot to the whole barrel.

“We’re told time and time again, that these incidents that Black Americans are experiencing, are because of bad apples, right?” Noah asks rhetorically. “There are bad apples and these police departments who are doing these things — they use chokeholds that are not allowed, they use excessive force, they’re violent in their words and their actions to the people they’re meant to be protecting and serving — these are bad apples, we’ve got to root them out of the force. My question, though, is, where are the good apples? If we’re meant to believe that the police system in America, the system of policing itself is not fundamentally broken, then we would need to see good apples.”

“We don’t see a mass uprising of police saying, ‘Let’s root out these people,'” he goes on. “We don’t see videos of police officers stopping the other cop from pushing an old man at a Black Lives Matter protest or from beating up a kid in the street with a baton. We don’t see that.”

Noah’s careful to clarify that he’s not asking if there are any good apples — he’s asking why they’re not speaking up, either during the incidents we keep seeing in appalling viral videos or as part of a push against police brutality from within policing itself. 

“I think there are many people who are good on the police force,” he says. “That’s why they join, because they want to do good. But I think [we don’t see them] because they themselves know that if they do something, that’s going against the system. The system is more powerful than any individual. The system in policing is doing exactly what it’s meant to do in America. And that is to keep poor people in their place.”

“Who happens to be the most poor in America?” he asked again. “Black people. You monetize them, you imprison them, which monetizes them again. It’s a system. It’s not broken. It’s working the way it’s designed to work. And once you realise that, I feel like you get to a place where you go, ‘Oh, we’re not dealing with bad apples. We’re dealing with a rotten tree that happens to grow good apples. But for the most part, the tree that was planted is bearing the fruit that it was intended to.'”

In a more official segment on Wednesday night’s episode, Noah mentions the case of Cariol Horne, who was fired in 2006 for stopping her white colleague putting a suspect in a chokehold, and just this week won her court case to have her pension reinstated. 

“[I]n one of the rare incidents where there was a good apple who tried to step up, what happened?” Noah asked. “The system turned against her, and protected the bad apple.”

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