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John Oliver Recaps the Year of America’s ‘Brutality Bingo’

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An update on the marble racing will have to wait. On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, a somber and furious John Oliver dedicated a segment to the police brutality that has plagued America throughout 2020, reminding viewers of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and, most recently, George Floyd — who were respectively “killed by wannabe police in the street,” “killed by police in their own home,” and “killed by police on the street.” Describing the country’s “truly brutal week” amid ongoing violent protests, Oliver reminded us of the historical context of why and how this kind of misconduct occurs between police and black Americans. “There is clearly a lot to discuss here — how these protests are a response to a legacy of police misconduct both in Minneapolis and in the nation at large, and how that misconduct is in and of itself built on a legacy of white supremacy that prioritizes the comfort of white Americans over the safety of people of color,” he explained. “There is so much to say here — some of it complicated, much of it all too clear. Or, you know, you could just go on TV, open up your mouth, and let this shit fall out.”

Oliver then played a clip of Fox News host Tucker Carlson reflecting on the filmed encounter between black bird-watcher Chris Cooper and white dog owner Amy Cooper, which went viral in May after the woman called the police and, in an exaggerated tone of terror, falsely claimed that the man was threatening her life. (He politely asked her to leash her dog in a leash-required area of Central Park.) “Ugly opinions, police brutality, officious bird-watchers, rude and entitled ladies walking their dogs in big-city parks — all of that is bad,” Carlson offered. “But none of it is nearly as bad as what you just saw,” he said, comparing the Central Park video to the violent protests in Minneapolis. Oliver was unamused by the comparison: “People like Tucker love to venerate order at moments like this, and that’s easy to do when order in its current form is designed to benefit and protect you,” Oliver said. “Collectively, that has just got to be some brutality bingo right there.”

Oliver also doubled down on his usual criticism of Donald Trump and his social-media habits, this time how the president threatened to shoot every person who participated in looting during protests. “Set aside that when a man like Donald Trump uses the word ‘thugs,’ you know exactly what it’s code for,” Oliver explained. “‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts’ is actually a quote from a notoriously racist 1960s Miami police chief. And it is truly astounding how Donald Trump has managed to live 74 years with a remedial understanding of spelling, grammar, geography, science, civics, nutrition, and child development, and yet he’s the fucking Library of Alexandria when it comes to racist maxims of the 20th century.” Violent protesting continued around the country for the sixth straight night on Sunday, with the National Guard now activated in at least 15 states.

John Oliver Recaps the Year of America’s ‘Brutality Bingo’