A man asked if all poor Americans should get reparations. Trevor Noah's response is perfect.

Trevor Noah has a brilliant way of breaking down complex or challenging ideas into easily digestible nuggets.

If you haven’t seen Trevor Noah’s "Between the Scenes" clips, you’re missing out. During breaks in his late night talk show, Noah chats with the audience about all kinds of topics and then shares these candid conversations on Facebook. For Trevor Noah fans, these tidbits have become every bit as beloved as his comedy show—perhaps even more so, as they showcase Noah’s thoughtful intelligence in an unscripted way.

Take, for instance, his recent "Between the Scenes" clip where he answered a question from the audience about reparations.


An audience member asked, “Do you think reparations should go to just one group or should it target people in the same kind of, like, socio-economic group?"

“That’s an interesting question,” Noah responded. “What do you mean by that?”

“Well, there are white people that have been disenfranchised lately,” the man explained.

Recently is the key,” said Noah interjected.

“Well, the country deindustrialized, right?" replied the man. "So, a lot of people in manufacturing jobs and stuff, their areas were affected.”

The audience member is referencing an argument that comes up a lot in conversations about reparations—that many white Americans are currently struggling economically because of the changes in the economy and industrialization, so shouldn't they also receive some kind of compensation from the government?

Noah explained what reparations actually means, and why it doesn’t have anything to do with the current economic woes of middle America.

“To your question, I think you have to understand what the word ‘reparations’ means first," said Noah. "You are repairing something that’s broken. You are paying for something you were supposed to pay for. I’m not saying that there aren’t people living in America today who are suffering and are going through pain and strife because of what’s happening when it comes to machines taking jobs, factories becoming industrialized, etc. But reparations is a specific conversation about a specific time in America. And that is Black people were slaves, you know what I mean?"

He touched on the common "What about the Irish?" argument: "I have even heard people say like, ‘Oh but there were some of the Irish who were indentured.’  Slavery—look at the numbers, look at the time, look at the level of work. You could not work toward your freedom. For most Black people in America this was a time when you lived and died as a slave. And so that’s what reparations is about."

"And so I hear what you’re saying," Noah told the man who asked the question, "but I think that’s a completely separate conversation that needs to be had about the now. Because if you are not careful what you then do is combine everybody’s suffering into the same bowl and you make it seem all injustices have the same weighting, and they don’t. Just like crimes, you know, theft isn’t the same as murder. We don’t try them the same way.”

Noah empathized with people's economic strife, but explained how it can’t be compared to the centuries of injustices heaped upon Black Americans.

“I feel for anybody who is suffering because I know what it’s like to be poor,” continued Noah. “I know what it’s like to suffer. I didn’t come from a wealthy family. We struggled when I was growing up. But I also understand that there are levels of that suffering, you know?”

Noah said he understands why the idea of white privilege is hard for some White Americans to grasp. “You go, ‘White privilege,’ and a person goes, ‘I’m poor and I’m White. Where’s the privilege?’ White people are like, ‘I wish I could activate my white privilege. I wish I could do it right now. White privilege! Give me something!’ I get that. I get that, trust me, I get it. It is hard to accept that you have benefits because of the color of your skin if you cannot see the benefits that you have.”

Instead of thinking in terms of privilege, Noah said he tells people to think of how a handicap works in golf. “In golf they acknowledge that you are in a position where you need so many advantages to be competitive in the game, right? So what they say is, ‘You have a handicap of 15.’ So that means you’re going to be hitting from this tee and you get more chances to get the ball in because we understand the position you’re in.”

Then he brought it all together to show why the idea of reparation for Black Americans is worth consideration:

“If you’re a Black person in America, from slavery, from day one, the number of injustices that have held Black people back in America amounts to an insurmountable…like, you look at Black people’s freedom, you look at Black people’s land. Just land alone. The amount of wealth you can acquire over time if you own land is exponential. Because you have the land. You have the fact that you can borrow based on the land. You have the fact that you can use the money that you have borrowed to grow more wealth. You can use it to grow your family’s wealth. Just taking that way from Black people alone is crippling them. And so you combine that with slavery, and then you look at Jim Crow laws. You didn’t let Black people in America live in the areas they wanted to live in. They couldn’t get loans from the banks that they wanted to get loans from. And then on top of that when they started getting the loans from American banks, American banks were found to be giving them higher interest rates when in fact they were the same risk as many of the other races that they were given loans to."

He also pointed to the fact that reparations isn't an issue for white folks to be debating, but something for Black Americans to work out with the U.S. government.

"So when you combine all of those things, I think it’s safe to say that Black Americans have a conversation they need to be having with the United States. Doesn’t involve me. Doesn’t involve white people. It’s like, ‘Yo, American government, meet the Black people.’ That’s it. Have that conversation.”

Thanks, Trevor, for once again breaking down a controversial issue in a way that helps us all understand it better. (For a deeper dive into reparations, read Ta-Nehisi Coates' op-ed in The Atlantic, "The Case for Reparations.")

Watch Noah's "Between the Scenes" clip here:

Reparations & White Privilege

For anyone confused about reparations:

Posted by Between the Scenes on Monday, March 25, 2019
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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

We know that mammals feed their young with milk from their own bodies, and we know that whales are mammals. But the logistics of how some whales make breastfeeding happen has been a bit of a mystery for scientists. Such has been the case with sperm whales.

Sperm whales are uniquely shaped, with humongous, block-shaped heads that house the largest brains in the animal world. Like other cetaceans, sperm whale babies rely on their mother's milk for sustenance in their first year or two. And also like other cetaceans, a sperm whale mama's nipple is inverted—it doesn't stick out from her body like many mammals, but rather is hidden inside a mammary slit.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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