Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 3, Episode 28 - School Segregation - full transcript

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight !
I'm John Oliver.

Thank you for joining us !
Before we start,

look, we did not want to talk
about the election at all this week.

We so badly
wanted to give everyone a break.

We even prepped
a fun story about Iceland,

which had a fascinating election.

If you think things
are turbulent this election,

be glad you don't live in Iceland.

Pirates could soon
be running that country.

It's true ! Pirates were running
for election in Iceland !

It was something called
"the Pirate Party",

but it was still very interesting,
we had some solid eye-patch jokes.

And it was going to be fun.
But we can't talk about it.

I can't talk about
Spain's new government,

or that Austria is awaiting its 3rd
attempt at a presidential election,

after the last one was postponed

due to defective glue
on the absentee ballot envelopes.

I don't even have time to show
you all of this YouTube video

of a man who surprised a dog
by dressing up as its favorite toy.

Don't you want to see how that ends ?
That dog's expression is clearly:

"I'm going to hump
the shit out of that."

But there is no time,
because with a heavy heart,

we must begin
with the 2016 election:

"The shit-filled cornucopia
that just keeps on giving, 2016".

And it's all because
of what happened on Friday.

A dramatic new twist
in the presidential campaign.

The FBI is reviewing its investigation
into Hillary Clinton's use

of a private email server
while she was secretary of state

after the discovery of new emails that
appear to be pertinent to the case.

Perfect ! That's what this election,
everyone's state of mind, needed.

Bacardi should consider
switching their slogan...

"Bacardi: because there might be
more fucking Clinton emails."

If this shitty development
were not grim enough,

there is also the matter of where
this latest problem came from.

The unearthed emails
are from the FBI's investigation

into disgraced congressman
Anthony Weiner.

It's true. It seems Anthony Weiner
is forcing the nation

to relitigate
the entire email controversy,

and putting Hillary Clinton's chances
of winning in serious danger...

Carlos Danger.

Damn it, Weiner !
For the record: this is a reflex.

I'm not having fun,
you are ruining my dance !

This is a disgusting way
for the email case to come to life.

Just watch Vice President Biden

learn about Weiner's involvement
for the very first time.

I don't know
where these emails came from.

- Apparently Anthony Weiner.
- God ! Anthony Weiner.

I should not comment
on Anthony Weiner.

You can picture Biden repressing
that news and going to his happy place,

which I assume is this actual picture
of him eating an ice cream,

wearing sunglasses,
and holding a fistful of money.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing

is we don't know yet
whether this is a huge problem,

or whether
it's barely a problem at all.

FBI director James Comey
pointed out to Congress

that "FBI cannot assess whether or not
this material may be significant."

Sources have since dampened
expectations of what might emerge.

Sources tell us that Hillary Clinton is
not implicated in any of these emails,

so there is no, right now,
direct connection to Hillary Clinton,

but we don't know specifically
what is in these emails.

So nine days out from the election,

the FBI has basically delivered us
the equivalent of a mystery box.

And like the box from the end
of "Seven", it could contain anything,

from nothing
to Gwyneth Paltrow's head,

although it almost definitely contains
Anthony Weiner's penis.

And chances of getting this resolved
before the election seem slim.

So, thousands of emails
on the computer to examine.

They've got to get court process to
get the right to look at those emails.

Because remember this investigation
of Weiner was focused solely

on the texts that he sent
to an underage girl,

so they've got to get legal process
to take a wider look at these emails.

You said this won't be wrapped up
before Election Day. Scratch probably.

The grinding hell of this election
has thrown in yet another twist,

with the election potentially
hanging in the balance,

thanks to the fact Weiner allegedly
sexted with a 15-year-old girl.

Now, a month ago,
when Donald Trump tweeted

we should "check out a sex tape"
of a former Miss Universe contestant,

I said if you looked up,
you would see rock bottom.

If you look up now, you will see
absolutely nothing. I'll tell you why.

We have burrowed
through the core of the earth,

and we've come bursting out
the other side, startling kangaroos,

and we're hurtling
toward outer space,

where there is no up,
down, light, or darkness,

just an endless void in which death
comes as sweet, sweet relief.

Please let this thing be over soon.

And now, this !

The stream-of-consciousness musings
of WCBS-2 meteorologist, John Elliott.

It is 7:19,
time to check your local weather.

Thank you, Norah.

If I was to scale, my head
would be worth about $400 million.

Time to check your local weather.

Thank you Kristine. I know her.
I know Kristine Johnson.

You know what this guy
said to that guy ?

I'm next door. Here I am,
they were, I was waiting here.

I was just doing
a little batting practice.

Rob Lowe and his hair
are downstairs right now.

That's-this guy does not age.

A little gift. Like a little pearl,
I have the morning sun.

Mom is turning 90 this summer,
a few months behind the Queen.

So, yes, cheerio.

Frank Sinatra Jr.
was an excellent singer.

President's legs are thin.

Every gym I've ever been
to says no cell phone use.

So much of the country bacon...
I want bacon !

Time to check your local weather.

I've just gotta say it.
I think Gayle's hair looks great.

Moving on... Our main story tonight
concerns racism.

The problem that "Crash"
failed to solve.

And, specifically, we're going
to discuss school segregation

which, it turns out,
is still a big problem.

Racial segregation is on the rise.
The number of schools

where 1 percent or less
of the student population is white

has more than doubled
in the last twenty years.

That's true. Even as our society
has grown more diverse,

nearly 7 000 schools
have the same racial makeup

as the audience of your average
Tyler Perry movie.

That one white guy is Leonard Maltin !
And he has to be there, it's his job !

"A Madea Halloween... three stars !"

If you are in a city like New York,
you're probably thinking,

"Splendid !
I know where this is going:"

"a story vilifying the backwards
and racist American South !"

"Let me grab kale chips that I can
munch on while feeling superior."

There is something
you should probably know.

According to the
UCLA Civil Rights Project,

the south is the least segregated
region for black students.

New York State is now the most
segregated system in America,

in large part due to New York City.

Shit, liberal white New Yorkers:
twist ending !

You were racist the whole time !

Put back those persimmons you bought
yourselves as a treat from Fairway.

You don't deserve them anymore !

It would still be problematic,
even if these schools

were roughly equivalent academically
as that would still be a violation

of the principle of Brown
versus Board Of Education

that "separate educational facilities
are inherently unequal".

But in practice,
they are very rarely equal in any way.

Blacks and Latinos

are more likely to attend schools
with inexperienced teachers,

which are then less likely to offer
a college-prep curriculum.

Because race and class
are inextricably linked,

those students are six times as likely
to be in high poverty schools.

While there are teachers and students
working very hard in those places,

they are often doing so
with fewer resources.

As one student learned,
during a school exchange program.

We do what's called a "school swap".

Students that go to county high schools
attend a school in the city for one day

then students in the city attend
a school in the county for one day.

The first thing that I noticed
was all this stuff around here,

stuff that looked like
it cost lots of money.

When teachers come in,
they can get right on topic,

they have multiple computers...

I relate it back to my school.
We don't have all that.

I get what that program was trying
to do, but it still seems cruel,

giving students a glimpse
of what other kids are getting.

At least on a plane,
they cover first class with a curtain.

Sure, they might still bake cookies
and waft the smell down the aisle,

but that's just to fuck with you.

So how is it possible
that our nation's schools

are more segregated now than they
have been in over four decades ?

Places like New York
haven't so much "re-segregated"

as "never really bothered
integrating in the first place."

Because the 1964 Civil Rights Act

was very carefully crafted
by northern lawmakers.

It targeted the kind of segregation
"by law" which existed in the South.

You couldn't have a school that was
officially designated "whites only".

But it exempted the so-called
"racial imbalance" of northern schools.

If a New York school was white because
it was drawing from an all-white area

even if that area had been kept
that way

due to a host of racist housing
policies that was somehow fine.

If you're thinking it is hypocritical
bullshit, you are not alone.

Malcolm X was pointing this out,
in New York, at the time.

You don't have to go to Mississippi
to find a segregated school system.

It shows that the problems
that the white liberals

have been pointing the finger
at the southern segregationists

and condemning them for,
exist right here in New York City.

Of course racism exists in New York.

Have you never seen
"West Side Story" ?

It is a musical about
love transcending the obstacle

of "one person being Puerto Rican."

It'll never work !

And for what it's worth:
when, on rare occasions,

northern cities were forced
to desegregate,

things got as ugly
as they did down South.

One Boston man
describes his memories

of being sent to a school
in a white neighborhood.

So, my first day of school
was when we got off the school bus

was right on the steps.

In white paint,
niggers go back home to Africa.

You got all these whites out there,
with signs calling us niggers,

you know, go back home.

And then some of these same kids
you would see in class.

"What's up with that ?

Yeah. He's got a point there.

They shout "go home to Africa"
and then sit beside you in class ?

I hope the kids who heard
that had the opportunity to go:

"You want to borrow a pencil ?"

"I'm sorry, I must've left mine
in Kenya this morning."

For a taste of the general paranoia
surrounding this issue back then,

watch this trailer for a movie
called "Halls of Anger".

A handful of white students
are transferred to an all-black school.

You know there's gonna be trouble.

Vanilla ice cream !

And I'm gonna take me a big lick !

That is clearly horrible. But using
the terms "chocolate" and "vanilla"

is the best possible argument
for bringing races closer together.

What happens when you combine
chocolate and vanilla ?

Fucking "fudgie the whale" happens !

And it is superb !

And even though the path
to integration was rough

and the burden fell disproportionately
on African-American communities,

there were still clear benefits.

Bringing in white children
also brought in resources,

to an almost comical extent.

Immediately, when the decision
was made that white kids

would be bused into West Charlotte,
it was like a community joke.

the gravel parking lot was paved.

The athletic facilities,
in terms of the football stadium,

basketball and gymnasium stuff
was upgraded.

It was like overnight someone had
written a check for a million dollars.

Exactly. Funding tends to follow
white people around

the way white people follow
the band Phish around.

"It's a different show every time.
Last time I was rolling"

"'cause I snorted molly
off a communal didgeridoo."

"Different show every time man !"

That man's school was in Charlotte,
North Carolina,

a city which became a model for
how desegregation could be effective.

By the end of the 1980s,

just 1 percent of Latino children,
and 3 percent of Black children,

were attending schools
considered "racially isolated",

that is,
90 percent or more minority.

This was such a point of pride
that when President Reagan visited,

and tried to talk shit
about Charlotte's system,

it didn't go down too well.

They favor busing that takes innocent
children out of the neighborhood school

and makes them pawns in a social
experiment that nobody wants.

We've found out it failed.
I don't call that compassion.

Reagan got no reaction
from the crowd on that line.

I took great offense to it
and I stomped across the floor

and said a few choice expletives
about the president and cut off the TV.

That is some
courtly southern aggression.

I'm guessing his choice expletives
were "heavens to Betsy",

"that really fried my grits"

and "you are a scoundrel without
valor ! Without valor I say !"

What happened in Charlotte is the story
of desegregation in a nutshell.

In 1997, a white parent
got upset when his daughter

lost out in an lottery
for a magnet school,

which had reserved
seats for black children.

Even though
she was still assigned

to one of the top 10 elementary schools
in the state, he filed a lawsuit.

I believe that my daughter's
constitutional rights were violated

and as a concerned parent,
a responsible parent I hope,

it was my job
to look after her well-being.

Okay, sure. But she was
already in a top 10 school.

Making sure your kid
has a good education

is one of the most important
jobs a parent can do.

It's up there with lying about
not having a favorite child.

Because every parent has a favorite
child and it's Dylan.

It's not you, it's not any
of your siblings. It's Dylan.

Just ask your parents.
They like Dylan.

He does his own laundry.

That man's selfishness
had a huge impact.

A federal judge
ruled in his favor,

vacating the district's desegregation
plan, blowing up the whole thing.

Charlotte then experienced
swift resegregation.

As by 2010, those one and three
percent figures for Latinos and Blacks

had grown to 44
and 47 percent.

It is tempting to be angry at that
one parent because,

before the verdict came down,
he moved his family to California.

The constitutional
challenge equivalent

of farting in a crowded elevator
as you're stepping off of it.

This wasn't an isolated incident,

all over the country desegregation
plans were struck down.

Thanks to Supreme Court rulings
making it easier to challenge them.

And the prevailing narrative,
became that desegregation imposed

too high a cost on students for
a benefit that was no longer necessary.

An attitude best summed up
by this Louisiana state senator.

Do you think that you have
to bus children long distance,

so you can say you sit in a seat next
to someone different from yourself ?

Justice department achieved their goal.
Who can say we're not desegregated ?

We have
an African-American president,

we have an African-American
mayor here in Baton Rouge

with a majority white
in the parish.

We've been through all that.

There it is: the idea that,
because President Obama was elected,

systemic racism
was pretty much solved.

Which is absolutely absurd,

because racism is not one of those
things that disappears on its own.

It's not like chicken pox
or Chewbacca mom.

I know I have just restarted
the clock on that one

and I am genuinely sorry.

So the only solution here
is to be proactive.

If you just assign kids to their
neighborhood schools

and their neighborhoods
are segregated,

you will have a segregated school.

There are some parents
who would resist

just about anything
that might result in integration.

Listen to how these parents in
St. Louis reacted to the idea

of students from a black
community added to their schools.

So will this district,
send my son to a better school

when this one goes down.

We don't want this
here in Francis Howell.

I deserve to not have to worry
about my children getting stabbed

or taking a drug or getting
robbed because that's the issue.

That is not subtle. She is just
a "homies" and a "baggy pants" away

from full dog-whistle bingo.

Those parents
are all extreme examples.

But even if you give
everyone the benefit of the doubt

and you assume all complaints
about bus schedules or class sizes

are actually just about buses
or class sizes,

you don't have to be intentionally
racist to do things with racist effect.

In the '60s, if you had insisted
on separate lunch counters,

not because you hated black people,
but you loved your son so much,

you wanted him
to get his lunch quicker,

the end result
would have been the same.

I get the impulse to seize every
tiny advantage you can for your kid.

Segregated schools cause devastating
harm to actual children

and not just to their education,
but to their very sense of self-worth.

We don't have support at all.
We have lack of books, resources,

anything you can think of, but when
in contact with these white children,

they don't know how to act because
they believe they're better than us.

We neither,
we believe they're better than us.

That is heartbreaking.
Classrooms should teach children

about the importance of
self-esteem, not rip it from them.

Because that's what
prom is for.

And there can be lasting
positive impacts to integration.

Not because the mere act of having
a white classmate is somehow magic,

unless of course that kid has
round glasses, a scar on his forehead

and sits alone
on parents' visiting day.

Getting to attend a good, middle-class
school can be transformative.

Professor Rucker Johnson
studied Black siblings

where one went to a desegregated
school, the other didn't.

Not only did those exposed to more
years of desegregation fare better,

but their kids did, too
and that is not all.

Blacks who attended
desegregated elementary schools

were more likely to graduate

and 22% less likely
to be incarcerated as adults.

Johnson found that the narrowing
of the achievement gap

and the increased
success of black Americans

did not have any negative effect
on whites on any metric.

It was good for black people
and had no effect on white people.

It's like this canister of
"black n' sassy cream shine."

I am pretty sure
I can make that joke.

I am pretty sure that's okay.
Hold on.

Which writer pitched it ? Shit !
That doesn't help.

The point is, for white children,

a lack of experience with people of
other races can have downsides.

Just watch one young girl
take a racial bias test.

Show me the good child.

- Why is she the good child ?
- I think she looks like me.

Okay. Show me the bad child.

- Why is she the bad child ?
- Because she's a lot darker.

What do you think ?
Shocking to you ?

I just think
it's 'cause she's not exposed.

Exactly. And that is why
it is important to expose kids

to other races at a young age.

You don't want your child playing
"Guess Who?" at a party

and asking "is this person bad ?"
to rule out anyone who isn't white.

While you can absolutely teach kids
about racism in the abstract,

if your school is overwhelmingly white,
important nuances can get lost,

as this second-grader found after
a bold choice for a school project.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that my four children
will one day live in a nationý

Sean is portraying a historical figure
assigned by his teacher.

Martin Luther King junior.

He said mom I want to wear a suit
and a black tie.

I have to wear a white shirt and
I want to do my face in black.

They thought it was inappropriate
and disrespectful to black people.

But I say that it's not.
I like black people.

Okay, first...

Second: it is not that kid's fault
he didn't know any better.

Finally: if Martin Luther King Jr.
could see that clip,

I don't know whether
he'd be thrilled or horrified.

He might be both ! He'd be like:
"I made a difference... To a point."

So the benefits of truly diverse
schools are obvious.

The problem is, often just
our willingness to do it at all.

Some school districts are now
looking for ways to fix things.

And there are models around
the country for what can work.

Boston has had a voluntary
program to send kids

from city
to schools in the suburbs.

It's tiny, but wildly popular.

Louisville has created a complicated
school-assignment formula

that has resulted
in more integrated schools.

It is not perfect
and they've had to tweak it a lot,

but under that program,

90% of kindergarten families still
receive their first choice of schools.

Impressive. 'Cause I doubt
90 percent of those families

even received their first
choice of kindergartner.

She's great. She draws on a lot
of things. But she's great.

She's absolutely fine.
She's no Dylan, of course.

Because as we all know,
Dylan is the best.

Everyone should be invested
in those sorts of solutions.

While this gets framed as an issue
about parents and their children,

it's actually about adults
and everybody.

Because kids grow up.
And those little doctors, soldiers,

police officers and superheroes asking
you for candy tomorrow,

in a decade or so, they
might be actual doctors,

soldiers, police officers and assistant
directors of human resources.

And there are massive
and multiple benefits for all of us

if they interacted more
from an early age.

I know this seems like a lot to ask,
but in the words of a small white child

dressed as a dead civil rights
leader, I have a dweam.

And now, this.

And now, Last Week Tonight asks:
how is this still a thing ?

This week, voting on Tuesday.
How is this still a thing ?

In the US, two things
are for certain.

Elections for national office
are held on the first Tuesday

after the first Monday
in November.

Second, every time it happens,
we're going to ask, why is that ?

When this question came up, none
of us knew why we vote on Tuesdays.

Ever wondered why
we vote on Tuesday ?

Election Day is always Tuesday,
but we wondered why.

And it's not just newscasters.
Nobody seems to know.

I do not know why elections
are on Tuesday.

On a Tuesday ?
I'm not sure.

- A good question, do you know ?
- I feel like I should, but no.


Even human pickles don't know
why we vote on Tuesday.

It's one of those mysteries
no one can figure out,

like where's the remote ?

Or why doesn't Jason Bourne
just Google himself ?

The reason comes from an 1845 law,
passed for a very 1845 reason.

People had limited access to move
about polling stations.

They had to make Election Day a day
people could accommodate schedules.

Weekends were no good
because of the Sabbath.

So take Monday as a travel day
and voila, vote on Tuesdays.

We vote on Tuesdays because
of the Sabbath, making voting day

the only thing in American life
still scheduled around Sundays,

other than the operating hours
of Chick-fil-A

and new episodes of
America's Funniest Home Videos.

That's right motherfuckers,
that thing's still on.

And it'll be on long after
this nonsense is cancelled.

While many states allow
early voting or mail in voting,

13 states don't.

Having everyone vote at once on
a Tuesday can cause scenes like this.

In the Valley, high voter
turnout for Election Day.

This is video from
the Oakwood University precinct

where voters went in for upwards
of 3 hours to cast their ballots.

Lines have been long at polls
across central Mississippi tonight.

People waited for hours to cast their
ballots in the cold and the rain.

Here in East Flatbush,
the line to vote

stretched through the hall and
up the stairs, but there's more.

This auditorium of people
is the line to get on the line.

Holy shit.
All the wait times at Disney World,

all the fun of the fucking DMV,
and for some,

the fact voting takes place on
a workday is a major inconvenience.

On Tuesday I have to work
and I'm an hourly employee

and so any time taken away from
work, I have to wake up earlier.

Exactly. Perhaps that's why
the most common reason

Americans give for not voting is
that they were too busy.

Which means too busy working,
although it could mean

too busy coming up with
sick pool dunks like this one.

Because this is America. There is
all sorts of really cool shit to do.

What could be done ?
We could expand early voting,

move Election Day to a weekend,
or keep it where it is

and declare it a national holiday
like it is in Puerto Rico,

where their turnout is not only
higher than the 50 states,

but their voting day
is more awesome.

Until we do that, we're going
to be forced to squeeze in voting

in between work,
doctors appointments,

or a few quick
rim-rattling nerf dunks.

So farmers who have been dead
for more than a century

won't have an excuse
to miss church.

All of which returns us
to the question:

voting on Tuesday,
how is this still a thing ?

That's our show. Thanks for watching,
see you next week ! Good night !