Brow Beat

John Oliver Explains Why School Segregation Is Still a Huge Problem—and Especially in the North

Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 invalidated laws that kept black and white students in separate schools, racial segregation in America’s school systems is still very much alive and well. John Oliver kicked off his Last Week Tonight segment on the subject with an admonishment for his more liberal white viewers, who might think the issue only applies south of the Mason-Dixon: “If you’re 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.’ ”

Not so fast, Oliver warns, because the New York school system is actually by some measures the most segregated in America, especially because of schools in New York City, where discriminatory housing policies and selective admissions processes have kept black and Latino students separate from their white counterparts. And since funding tends to follow white people “the way white people follow the band Phish,” this hurts minority students—just as, Oliver argues, it hurts white students, too.