‘Last Week Tonight’: John Oliver Makes Case For Housing Reparations For Black Americans, “Make It Right By Paying What You Owe”

John Oliver took racist housing policies to task during his segment on Last Week Tonight.

The firebrand host dove into the history of housing discrimination in the United States by detailing the noxious history of racial covenants in the South that prevented home sales to Blacks and how some of those bylaws exist to this day.

Oliver pointed out how this segregation was accelerated when the federal government stepped in, with the ushering in of government programs such as the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation Act and founding of institutions like the Federal Housing Authority.

The idea was to make it easier for Americans to buy homes after the Great Depression, Oliver pointed out. The government would ensure a home loan, which would then relieve some pressure off the banks, which is how the modern home mortgage was born.

Though the invention itself was necessary and brilliant, Oliver lamented the policies’ devastating effects: locking in segregation and making it virtually impossible for African Americans to qualify for home loans.

“Millions bought homes that never otherwise could have bought homes. It was a great idea, which is why it is so tragic that directly baked into that plan was the intentional exclusion of Black people,” Oliver said.

In direct contrast with the tone of this history lesson, Oliver took aim at white Americans and dismantled the notion of how post-war Caucasians actually earned their wealth.

“When you take all of this together – the redlining, the block-busting, the steering, and not least, the federal government’s involvement, it all becomes clear the myth of white Americans prosperity, powered by ingenuity and self-reliance, leaves a lot out,” Oliver said.

Efforts to address housing discrimination have been weak, Oliver said and offered one answer that he said Black viewers have likely been yelling at the screen for 20 minutes.


This year, a House committee advanced a bill that would study reparations for descendants of enslaved Americans. The measure proposes the creation of a federal commission to study reparations and recommend remedies for the harms caused by slavery, as well as how the U.S. could formally apologize.

Oliver suggested this is a step in the right direction. He articulated further this reckoning is on the federal government’s bill and not on any single city or state to fully correct.

“This is a wound we are actively choosing not to heal, and it is hurting real people every day,” Oliver concluded.

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