After yet another shooting of an unarmed black man by police, Trevor Noah began Monday’s Daily Show with an emotional, searching monologue on the cyclical senselessness of armed police interactions and anti-black racism in America. “Another Monday in the middle of corona and in the middle of protests about police brutality, and yet it’s another Monday of another police brutality incident,” Noah said. “Another story that has people going, ‘How long? How much? When is it enough?’”
This weekend, it was Rayshard Brooks, 27, killed in Atlanta after officers were called on him for sleeping in his car in a Wendy’s parking lot. Brooks, clearly intoxicated, was awoken by two Atlanta officers, Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan. They talked for about 30 minutes, all recorded on camera, and “in the beginning, it seems like everything is going to be fine,” Noah said. “The cops are talking to him like a person. They’re not being aggro, they’re not being disrespectful, they’re not being mean or anything. He’s being respectful. He’s calling them ‘sir’, he’s not cussing them out, he’s offering to walk home. Everything is going well.
“And then in one moment, in just a few seconds, every part of that normal story turns into the abnormal ending that we’ve come to know as interactions with police and black people.”
The officers tried to arrest Brooks, who resisted; the officers tried to tase him, and Brooks grabbed the stun gun. As he ran away, Rolfe shot Brooks in the back, killing him.
“Why are armed police dealing with a man who’s sleeping in his car?” Noah asked. “These are the questions we need to ask: why, why, why, why, why, why? Why are armed police the first people who have to go and respond to somebody who’s sleeping in their car, who’s drunk?
“The sober person, the onus is upon them to make sure the situation doesn’t get out of hand,” he added. “How does it get that far? How does it end with him losing his life?”
Noah concluded by presupposing arguments that Brooks would be alive if he hadn’t been drunk, citing the many “ifs” lobbed at the deaths of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor. “People always say the same thing: ‘If you didn’t do that, you’d still be alive.’ They say this shit all the time – ‘If you didn’t do that.’ But the truth is, the ‘ifs’ keep on changing,” he said.
“If you didn’t resist arrest, then you’d still be alive. Or if you didn’t run away from the cops, you’d still be alive. Well, if you didn’t have a toy gun and were 12 years old in the middle of a park, then you would have still been alive. Well, you know what, if you weren’t wearing a hoodie, then you would have still been alive. If you didn’t talk back to the cops, you would have been still been alive. If you weren’t sleeping in your bed as a black woman, you would have still been alive.
“There’s one common thread beyond all the ‘ifs’.” he concluded. “If you weren’t black, maybe you’d still be alive.”
On the Late Show, a “stunned” Stephen Colbert opened with some actual good news: the supreme court ruled 6-3 that federal anti-discrimination laws protect gay and transgender employees. “Up until this moment, in half of these United States, if your boss found out you were LGBTQ, you could be fired,” Colbert said. “So this is a big gain for human rights, but of course a big loss for Chick-fil-A.”
Colbert also touched on the killing of Rayshard Brooks. Brooks’s death “highlights the inadequacy of previous attempts at law enforcement reform”, explained Colbert, because Rolfe had recently completed nine hours of use-of-force training, which focuses on de-escalation tactics. “Well, that didn’t seem to de-escalate the situation too much – maybe he slept through the training,” said Colbert. “Luckily, no one called the cops on him.”
“Generally speaking, good news has been hard to come by these days,” said Seth Meyers on Late Night. “So when the Republican-dominated supreme court handed down a landmark decision this morning on whether federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people, I was ready for disappointment.” Instead, the court ruled 6-3 to extend federal civil rights protections to all LGBTQ people. “WHAT?! Something good happened?” remarked a shocked Meyers.
The “thrilling and momentous ruling” arrives just days after the Trump administration announced it would roll back transgender healthcare protections, “because any time Trump has an opportunity to be an asshole, he takes it”, Meyers said. “I would say the Trump presidency is like a slippery slope toward authoritarianism, but given how bad he is at it, it’s more like a slippery ramp.”
Meyers also touched on the various reform measures – banning police chokeholds, for example, or taking down Confederate monuments – in response to mass demonstrations against anti-black racism and police brutality. “Some of these moves are good first steps, others are clearly insufficient,” Meyers said. “But I have to say: in the year 2020, banning chokeholds and taking down monuments to white supremacy should be the absolute bare minimum. We shouldn’t be satisfied with that. That’s like going in for a check-up and your doctor saying, ‘Just so you know … I graduated high school.’”