Sunday night, John Oliver became the first late-night host to address the sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, but the Brit left the rest of the show to discussing Confederate monuments.
In recent years, there’s been significant debate regarding Confederate symbols, particularly monuments of Confederate leaders who fought to preserve slavery. This summer, white nationalists protested the removal of a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Virgina. The riots turned violent and ultimately ended with one counter-protester dead.
“What do you do now?” asked Oliver. “I would argue that nothing is not acceptable and trying to paper over the cracks can actually make things worse. In the 1990s, Richmond tried to fix its Monument Avenue, a street lined with statues of Confederate leaders, by adding African-American tennis legend Arthur Ashe to it. You can’t just give Confederates a black friend and say, ‘We’re good, right?'”
“So if we really want to learn from and honor our history,” he continued, “perhaps the first step might be to put most of these statues somewhere more appropriate surrounded by ample historical context — like at a museum.”
Oliver had a couple more suggestions for possible replacement statues in Texas, Florida, and South Carolina — particularly Charleston.
“There is Charleston. To you, I say this: Why have a divisive Confederate statue when instead that pedestal can be filled by your favorite son, the actual Stephen Colbert, who will stand up there all day telling you fun facts about your wonderful town?” Colbert, who grew up in Charleston, then offered up this fun fact: “Charleston is the site of the first free public library in America.”
“And please, try not to think of this as a loss. It’s actually a real opportunity,” the HBO host pointed out about the replacement of the monuments. “Because if and when a plinth becomes empty, that is actually a huge chance for your area to honor someone who really deserves it.”
You can watch the entire segment from Last Week Tonight above.