Jon Stewart stepped out from his recluse shadows in a rare interview with David Marchese from The New York Times magazine. In the interview, Stewart reflected on the recent protests calling for police reform and had some slightly different takes than some others speaking out on the issue lately.
Stewart called the current job of the police to essentially perpetuate segregation. He stated that segregation may have “legally” ended, but really never ended in the practical sense. Law enforcement, according to Stewart, serves as a de facto “border patrol” to protect one America from the other.
“The police are, in some respects, a border patrol, and they patrol the border between the two Americas. We have that so that the rest of us don’t have to deal with it. Then that situation erupts, and we express our shock and indignation,” Stewart said.
But before some start to jump up and down in celebration of Stewart’s comments, the former Daily Show host is quick to point out that the police aren’t some alien rogue entity that dropped out of the sky to torment people of color, they are a reflection of all of us, as a society. In other words, what they have become is what we have allowed them to become.
Of course, complaining without offering solutions doesn’t do much good and Stewart also offered some advice on how to arrive at some forward-thinking solutions.
“We continue to make this about the police – the how of it. How can they police? Is it about sensitivity and de-escalation training and community policing? All that can make for a less-egregious relationship between the police and people of color. But the how isn’t as important as the why, which we never address.”
The political and comedic veteran said that if the US does not address the “anguish” of a people who built the country via forced labor, we’ll continue to hear people say, “I’m tired of everything being about race.” Stewart then gave a retort to that premise, saying “Well, imagine how [expletive] exhausting it is to live that.”
Stewart said it was possible to “value and admire the contribution and sacrifice that it takes to be a law-enforcement officer” while still calling for “standards and accountability.”
Stewart also put the burden more on white people who have failed to “live up to the defining words of the birth of the country” that maybe should be a little less defensive and seek solutions. He pointed to the hypocrisy of heavily armed white people storming state capitol buildings and calling being asked to wear a mask in public “tyranny” while telling people who have been systematically oppressed to “get over it.”
“That’s six weeks versus 400 years of quarantining a race of people. The policing is an issue, but it’s the least of it. We use the police as surrogates to quarantine these racial and economic inequalities so that we don’t have to deal with them.”
Keep in mind, Stewart isn’t exactly a “cop hater” and is in fact one of the police’s best voices. Since 9/11, he has fiercely fought for police and other first responders to get the care and medical attention they deserve as politicians from both sides of the aisle have let them down. Stewart’s efforts for first responders came to fruition when Congress finally passed a bill in 2019 to permanently help them deal with the physical and mental illnesses they have endured since 9/11.
The former Daily Show host’s sage words should perhaps be heeded by more Americans. We all need to reflect on ourselves first. We do need police reforms, but some of the “reforms” need to take place from within our own hearts and minds if any real progress is to be made. Stewart recognizes these vital keys to progress, but will America at large come to the same realization? Will we finally live up to the words of our founding documents and become the one America we always should have been?
Only time will tell.
Stewart may have had some “self-interest” in speaking up at this time as he does have a new movie he wrote and directed coming out later this month in “on-demand” format called irresistible. Check out the trailer below: