Late-night hosts assess the significant impact of nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism in less than two weeks

Trevor Noah: ‘Well, you know what? I hope those people are hungry, because they’re going to be eating their words.’
Trevor Noah: ‘Well, you know what? I hope those people are hungry, because they’re going to be eating their words.’ Photograph: YouTube

Trevor Noah

After two weeks off, Trevor Noah returned to the Daily Show on Monday night and addressed the protests against anti-black racism and police brutality which have erupted nationwide after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The movement has spread across the world; as a protester in London told American news: “We’ll keep fighting the same fight that you are.”   

“That right there is why this movement has become as big as it has,” said Noah, “because everyone is now realizing that we’re all in the same fight. Like these protests may have been sparked by one killing in one American city but the truth is that if you are a black person, or a minority, or a poor person in many places around the world – in London, Berlin, Seoul, Cape Town – you understand what it means to be a target of the police and the target of a system that is designed to keep you down, with violence if necessary.”

And whenever there are protests, he added, “there are always going to be people who stand on the sidelines. There’s always going to be people who sit in their newspaper offices or their TV news studios and say, ‘I sympathize with you, but this is not the way to get what you want, this is not the way that you should be doing it, protesting is a waste of time, it turns people off, it’s just performative, it doesn’t accomplish anything.’ Well, you know what? I hope those people are hungry, because they’re going to be eating their words.”

“The bubonic plague was a major event in history, but we don’t go around putting up statues of rats,” he added.

And it’s working, Noah continued, because people are speaking up, and saying the words Black Lives Matter in public. “Black Lives Matter has become the phrase that people admit needs to be said,” Noah said, as everyone from Mitt Romney to fans of the K-pop band BTS to brands such as Gushers and Bud Light, corporations like Amazon have spoken up against systemic racism. “I don’t know if these companies are actually going to do something to show that they believe Black Lives Matter other than just saying it,” said Noah, “but it is still a major step to have American corporations who just a few years ago were terrified of that phrase saying it as part of their corporate ethos.”

There’s encouraging news on that front, too, as Noah recapped the growth of “defund the police” as a movement, which advocates for redirecting massive police budgets to non-punitive resources such as social services, education and mental healthcare. “It makes sense – prevention is always better than the cure, especially when the cure kills black people,” Noah said.

Seth Meyers

Meanwhile, “the mass demonstrations have had a powerful impact on public opinion,” Meyers continued, citing a poll in which Americans favor the protests by a margin of two to one. “You have to remember that millions of people, most of them over the age of 90, see this shit every night,” he added before playing a clip of Tucker Carlson scaremongering about celebrities supporting “looters”. “The privileged and the powerful – the people served by a racist system of predatory policing – see that the public overwhelmingly supports the protests. And that’s why they’re lashing out,” he explained.

“If lawmakers can learn anything from these crowds, it’s that mild reforms won’t cut it,” Meyers said. “As we’ve seen, police will abuse their authority under any circumstances – it’s a fundamentally corrupt system.”

Jimmy Kimmel

“What a time it is to be alive,” said Jimmy Kimmel on Monday night. “Two weeks ago we were on Instagram teaching each other how to make no-knead focaccia, now we’re dismantling systemic racism. I think that’s progress.”

Meanwhile, the Utah senator and “America’s whitest man” Mitt Romney marched with protesters in Washington over the weekend, and “you’ll never believe this – Republicans are mad at him for it,” said Kimmel. It was an “interesting reaction”, he continued, since “so many of these people claim they’re fine with peaceful protests, they just don’t like looting, or they don’t like violence, or they don’t want the disrespect to the flag. But what we’ve learned now, without a doubt, when a Republican who marches is considered a traitor to his party, is that a lot of these people just don’t agree that black lives matter.

“You need to ask yourself, if you belong to a party that castigates one of its most prominent members for standing up for civil rights, maybe your party sucks,” Kimmel added. “Hopefully Romney will continue to stand up in the Senate, where it really counts.”