When John Oliver opened up Last Week Tonight on Sunday, he said things were going to be a little different—the whole episode would be devoted to one thing: The police.
Oliver gave a searing, 30-minute-long takedown of the American police force, following almost two weeks of nationwide protests stemming from George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis cops. Oliver's words couldn't be more timely: With reports of cops using excessive force on those demanding justice for Floyd's death, it's never been more obvious that this country's police force needs top-to-bottom change.
"If police are trying to convince the public they're not guilty of using excessive force it's probably not a good idea to display excessive force on national television," Oliver said near the beginning of the episode.
In the rest of the segment, Oliver looks at how we got to this point, tying excerpts from The New Jim Crow—which call for African-Americans to be “controlled” to legislation made today. He also showed a clip from Dave Grossman's—an author and retired US Army lieutenant colonel—“Conditioned Response,” where Grossman calls on police officers to see themselves as predators. Later on, Olver dispels arguments the police and their supporters have made in their defense—specifically, that it’s just a couple bad guys giving the entire force a bad reputation.
“This clearly isn’t about individual officers,” Oliver said. “It’s about a structure built on systemic racism that this country created intentionally, and now needs to be dismantled intentionally and replaced with one that takes into account the needs of the people that it actually serves.”
Closer to the end of the episode, Oliver breaks down what can be done going forward—focusing, mostly, on police defunding. It’s another idea that’s gaining momentum: Redirect city budget funding from the police to the marginalized communities they’re hovering around.
“The concept is that the role of the police can then significantly shrink because they are not responding to the homeless, or to mental health calls, or arresting children in schools, or really any other situation where the best solution is not someone showing up with a gun,” Oliver said. “That is the idea behind ‘defund the police,’ if you actually listen to it.”
The final word in Sunday’s Last Week Tonight went to author Kimberly Jones, who made a powerful statement in a video responding to those criticizing the looting that's occurred at protest sites.
"There's a social contract we all have where if you steal or if I steal there's an authority who comes in and they fix the situation," Jones said. "But the person who fixes the situation is killing us. So the social contract is broken!"
If you're not in the streets demanding justice for Floyd, there are still ways you can help. Here is a list of causes you can donate to, which include the George Floyd Memorial Fund and Minnesota-area justice organizations.
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