John Oliver Ridicules United States' Racist, Colonialist Attitude Toward Its Territories

Did you know that over 98 percent of people living in U.S. territories are racial or ethnic minorities? Or that 1 in 8 adult residents of Guam are military veterans? Or that the legal justification for the disenfranchisement of the territories is based on a 114-year-old decision that says they are “inhabited by alien races” who “can’t understand Anglo-Saxon laws.”


These are the kinds of anachronisms and hypocrisies that form the foundation of the United States’ relationship to its territories. According to John Oliver, they’re the kind of facts we “knew but chose not to think about, like the fact that the dog from Full House is definitely dead by now.”

Oliver chronicles the many injustices suffered by residents of Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, all of whom are U.S. citizens, none of whom can vote in the general election. In American Samoa, residents aren’t even granted citizenship, rendering the "American" part of their name “just a title that doesn’t really mean anything, like People’s Choice Award nominee or social media expert.”

These countries have sacrificed significant parcels of land to military bases and thousands of young people to American wars, yet they have no say in electing the president and only symbolic representation in Congress. “At this point,” Oliver said, “the American flag should just be a guy from Guam holding the American flag.”

Watch the clip, complete with Oliver’s uniquely spastic dance to Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What." 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close