John Oliver explains to white people why, in 2016, school segregation 'is still a big problem'

John Oliver talks school segregation today
(Image credit: Last Week Tonight)

Tonight, more than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight, "we're going to discuss school segregation, which it turns out is still a big problem." He started with a little dig at his audience: "Now at this point, if you are in a city like New York, you're probably thinking, 'Oh, splendid, I know where this is going: a story vilifying the backwards and racist American South. Let me just grab a handful of kale chips that I can munch on while feeling superior.' Well hold on, there is probably something you should know." The South is the most integrated part of the U.S., he noted, kind of smugly, and New York City is the least.

Segregated schools "are very rarely equal in any way," Oliver noted, and black and Latino students bear a serious cost. "So how is it possible that our nation's schools are, by some measures, more segregated now than they have been in over four decades?" he asked. It turns out that places like New York City "never really bothered integrating in the first place," and the 1964 Civil Rights Act didn't make them — it was crafted by Northern lawmakers to undo the segregation "by law" in the South, but exempted the "racial imbalance" of Northern schools, Oliver explained, noting that Malcolm X was pointing this out at the time.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.