John Oliver did a wonderful thing on this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight. He kept his deep-dive segment free of presidential election discussion, which is something he’s made a point of doing lately with his police accountability and opioid crisis segments. Oliver may not be discussing the most viral topics, but they’re important issues that will surpass this distracting election.
Here, Oliver digs into an enduring issue that many folks assumed disappeared a few decades ago — school segregation — which is “the problem that Crash failed to solve.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964 aimed to end this blight, although schools are still reflective of economic policies and discriminatory housing practices that encourage continued segregation within districts. And as Oliver’s crack research team discovers, the most segregated schools don’t exist in the deep South. Instead, New York City is one of the biggest culprits.
Oliver introduces his audience to resegregation and its effects on children, both during and after school ends. Schools in high-poverty schools function with much fewer resources, both in the classroom and when it comes to college preparatory options. This fuels the cycle of poverty and can cement a segregated mindset for children before they even graduate. As Oliver states, “The hard truth is, you don’t have to be intentionally racist to do things that have racist effects.”
Naturally, he takes issue with anyone who thinks this isn’t happening in their supposedly enlightened city (i.e., NYC): “[Y]ou’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.'” Then comes the classic Oliver proclamation: “Oh sh*t, liberal white New Yorkers. Twist ending, you were racist the whole time.” Come for the Oliver one-liners, and stay for the surprisingly engrossing data crunching.