John Oliver introduces this segment by noting how when Jimmy Savile was exposed as a sexual predator, all monuments to him were torn down. He argues that since the Confederate states were fighting for slavery and all Confederate soldiers were traitors to the US, the monuments should also be removed. Many Americans believe the civil war was primarily fought over “states’ rights,” which I guess is true if you believe states should have the right to allow white people to own black people. He notes that many states’ declarations of secession explicitly mentioned slavery, including Mississippi’s which stated, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.” Additionally, Confederate VP Alexander Stevens said in a speech that the “cornerstone [of the confederacy] rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”
As for the argument that taking down the statue erases history, John Oliver says monuments don’t exist to preserve history but to honor someone, that history belongs in books and museums. Furthermore, he notes that folks like Ben Affleck try to erase history too — he went on “Find Your Roots” and demanded they edit out the fact that his ancestors were slave owners. And besides that, most of the statues went up well after the Civil War was over. At one dedication of a confederate monument, a leader of the KKK spoke, making it clear that these were meant to be monuments to white supremacy.
At the end of the segment, John Oliver has a few recommendations for statues that could replace confederate monuments, including Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to hold a pilot license, and Robert Smalls, who commandeered a Confederate ship, loaded it with his crew and their families who were all enslaved, sailed to freedom, and later became a congressman who served 5 terms. Stephen Colbert also makes a surprise appearance.