Comedian John Oliver confronts racism, police militarization in Ferguson

Sometimes it takes a Brit to hold up a mirror to America, capture its ugly side and reflect it back in biting, yet empathetic, satire. That is exactly what the former Daily Show reporter and British born comedian John Oliver did on his new HBO show, Last Week Tonight. In the 15-minute segment below, Oliver forthrightly exposes the relationship between racism and the militarization of police departments. “The police are not soldiers,” he says, “so why … are they wearing [expletive] camo? They are northwest of St. Louis, not northwest of the Amazon. If they want to blend into their surroundings they should be dressed as a dollar store. … If you are a cop in the United States, you should dress for the job you have, not the job you want. Because if you have all this equipment it is going to go to your head.”

Oliver quotes the American Civil Liberties Union report, “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” which ties the heavy arming of police forces across the country to the failed war on drugs and the ongoing war on terror. The war on drugs is widely seen as a key reason for the mass incarceration and criminalization of African Americans – referred to as “the new Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander in her book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

Photo/video: HBO



Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano had been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor, and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by the International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women, and Illinois Woman Press Association.