The Daily Show took a break from comedy on Wednesday for a segment in which Trevor Noah talked frankly about the newly released dashcam footage of the killing of Philando Castile. Noah had already addressed the verdict in a similarly joke-free bit on Monday night, but that was before he saw the horrifying footage of police officer Jeronimo Yanez unloading seven shots into Castile’s car. “It broke me,” Noah says bluntly. He was particularly moved by the final moments of the film, in which the 4-year-old daughter of Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, is hustled out of the car after witnessing Castile’s shooting.
But Noah’s keenest, saddest insight comes not from the new dashcam footage but from the video Reynolds broadcast immediately after the shooting. He zeroes in on the language she used, even in the chaos of a police shooting:
“You shot four bullets into him, sir.” It’s fucking mindblowing that Diamond Reynolds has just seen her boyfriend shot in front of her—she still has the presence of mind to be deferential to the policeman. In that moment, the cop has panicked, but clearly black people never forget their training. Still in that moment the black person is saying sir. “I respect you, sir. I understand what I need to do, sir.” The same thing Philando Castile did.
As Slate’s Austin Elias-de Jesus pointed out when Noah talked about the verdict earlier in the week, the host consistently uses this somber, measured tone when discussing police violence against black people. Take a step back and think about that for a minute: The host of a topical comedy show has had to develop a consistent editorial voice for stories about black people being killed by their own government. There’s nothing funny about it.