Born a Crime

by Trevor Noah

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Student Question

Why was the author of Born a Crime difficult to handle as a child?

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Trevor was a difficult child to care for early in his life because of apartheid. During his very early life, his father could not acknowledge his paternity, because having a mixed-race child was a crime in South Africa. This made it difficult to care for Trevor in the city. When he moved back to his grandmother's home, new difficulties arose. Trevor's light skin led to him being treated as white by the black residents of his mother's neighborhood, which meant that many families treated him very well and even spoiled him at times. His grandmother also had a hard time disciplining him, because the corporal punishment that she used on her other grandchildren left bruises on Trevor, making her feel guilty. This meant that Trevor was rarely punished by anyone other than his mother, allowing him to get away with behaviors that others couldn't. In addition, it was dangerous for him to go outside even in the black neighborhoods, because police for the apartheid government may have seen him and punished his mother.

While there were some family dynamic issues that prevented Trevor from being punished for bad behavior, the underlying issue that made it difficult to care for Trevor during his childhood was the reality of apartheid. This regime instilled views of white people that allowed Trevor far more leeway than his black relatives while also making his family more wary about his activities outside.

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