"When I'm saying 'African' I'm not saying it to exclude them from their French-ness, I'm saying it to include them in my African-ness," the 'Daily Show' host said on Wednesday's show.
Trevor Noah fired back at French ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud after the latter sent him a letter criticizing his controversial joke that "Africa won the World Cup" earlier this week.
The Daily Show host revealed on a "Between the Scenes" segment on his show Wednesday night that the ambassador had penned a letter to him that argued "nothing could be less true" than Noah's joke. Only two of the 23 members of France's World Cup-winning team came directly from Africa, Araud wrote; others' parents had immigrated from there. "This, even in jest, legitimizes the ideology that claims whiteness as the only definition of being French," Araud added.
Noah responded by questioning the premise of Araud's argument. "My opinion is ... black people all over the world were celebrating the African-ness of the French players. Not in a negative way but in a positive way, as in, 'Look at these Africans, who can become French," Noah said. He added that he found it "weird" that some suggest people can't be both African and French, and that to be French, immigrants or children of immigrants had to erase the cultures that came before.
He added, "America's not a perfect place, but what I love about this country is that people can still celebrate their identity in their American-ness."
(Araud's letter had included a jab about America, saying that "Unlike the United States of America, France does not refer to their citizens based on their race, religion or origin.")
"This is what I find interesting, is like, when I read stories from Africa and I watch what politicians say about African migrants when they are unemployed, when they may commit a crime, or when they're considered unsavory, they are 'African immigrants.' When their children go on to provide a World Cup victory for France, we should only refer to it as France," Noah added. He referenced the case of Mamoudou Gassama, the 22-year-old African immigrant who was granted French citizenship after he scaled four floors to rescue a dangling child.
"When I'm saying 'African' I'm not saying it to exclude them from their French-ness, I'm saying it to include them in my African-ness. I'm saying, 'I see you, my French brother of African descent," Noah said.
He added as a kicker, "I will continue to praise them for being African because I believe they are of Africa, their parents are from Africa, and they can be French, because I believe they can both at the same time. And if French people are saying they can't be, then I think they have a problem and not me."
The tiff began when Noah congratulated "Africa" for winning the 2018 World Cup on his show on Monday. After showing news clips of French citizens celebrating after France's victory in the tournament, Noah responded, "Yes! Yes, I'm so excited. Africa won the World Cup! Africa won the World Cup! ... I get it, they have to say it's the French team, but look at those guys. You don't get that tan in the South of France."
French social-media users and blogs responded by accusing the South African late-night host of racism.