Following the deadly church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, there’s been much debate over the racial undertones that come with the state’s continued use of the Confederate flag. On this week’s revenge-porn-tackling episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver also spent four minutes delivering an epic takedown on the “gaudy” symbol much of the South refuses to let go of.
“The Confederate battle flag was flying at full staff in front of the state capitol, although perhaps the bigger question is, ‘Why it was flying at any staff at all,'” Oliver asked. “The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should really only be seen on T-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world.”
The Confederate flag remains a polarizing issue in the South as it represents Southern heritage as much as it stands as a symbol of slavery and racism. It’s the duality of the flag that has politicians like South Carolina’s Republican Senator Lindsey Graham apprehensive about taking a firm stand on the symbol. “The flag represents, to some people, the Civil War, and that was the symbol of one side,” Graham said to CNN. “But to others, it’s a racist symbol, and it’s been used by people, it’s been used in a racist way.”
“I believe the first time the Confederate flag was ‘used in a racist way’ was the exact second they finished sewing the very first one,” Oliver shot back. The host then notes that a two-thirds majority vote from each chamber of the South Carolina State Assembly is needed to take down the Confederate flag. “They were originally going to make it three-fifths, but even they thought that might be a bit on the nose,” Oliver said, referencing the Three-Fifths Compromise.
“Now might be a great time, out of respect not just to the events of this week but for the events of the past several centuries, to take that vote and lower the flag down to half-staff,” Oliver says in conclusion. “And then when it’s at half-staff, why not keep lowering it, all the way down, and once you’re holding it in your hands, take it off the flagpole completely, fold it – or don’t bother – and put it in a box, label it ‘Bad Flag,’ and put it somewhere no one can see it.”