John Oliver’s deep dive into critical race theory is well worth a watch


If you were anywhere near the internet or the TV last year, chances are you would have seen the phrase “critical race theory” at some point — an academic theory that ended up becoming a major point of contention among shouty conservatives as well as a regular Fox News boogieman in 2021.

But what actually is critical race theory, and what’s its role in the education system? Returning for a new series of Last Week Tonight on Sunday, John Oliver took a deep dive into the topic. And he started with a simple definition.

“It’s the name given to a body of legal scholarship that began in the 1970s that attempted to understand why racism and inequality persisted after the civil rights movement,” Oliver says in the video above. “The core idea is that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice but also something that is embedded in legal systems and policies.”

The host goes on to debunk various right wing arguments and talking points about critical race theory — from misinterpretations and hyperbole to outright lies — before reaching the following conclusion.

“The debate around critical race theory is both very loud and very, very dumb. But unfortunately it is important to engage with it because if we don’t, the end point that we are heading towards is that honest discussion of race will be shut out of public schools,” says Oliver.

“I am not saying that discussions on race will always be comfortable for everyone in a classroom, but think about it like this: When was learning and growing as a person every really comfortable? The thing to do here isn’t to run from those discussions or pass laws banning them, it is to learn how to have them better. Because for generation after generation, we’ve told school kids fairytales about race in this country — and maybe it’s time we stop doing that.”

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