2006-09-11

Family Television Programming: Gather Your Klan Around


During my summer teaching experience, I worked at a school with a 99% Latino population. Though it was diverse to me, I ultimately hoped for a more racially diverse setting because I thought that may facilitate better, more enlightening discussions. Currently, I'm at a school with an amazing cross-section: no racial group comprises more than half of the student body, with substantial populations from each of our four highest ethnicities. I'm already disappointed, though, because these different student groups largely do not interact. Sure, when I force them to sit interspersed, they'll chat, but they're most interested in shouting across the room to like-color-skinned friends. Before school and at lunch, I see the students voluntarily separate into four distinct groups: Hispanic, White, Black, and Asian. As I verbalized this aloud to Jessica, I realized: oh my gosh, it's just like Survivor!

For those of you who have been living under a rock (or have lives exciting enough such that you don't follow reality television), the upcoming season of Survivor divides the contestants into four race-based tribes. When I first heard about this twist, I thought, great, this is it, I can't watch the show any more. There are certain institutions that I refuse to support, one of which is segregation. From my perspective, by categorizing people according to their race, we give credence to it being a viable way to separate people. In truth, it bothered me the three times Survivor split its tribes by gender (as does any time someone suggests breaking teams into "boys vs girls!"), but that type of division is so accepted by society that it'd probably turn into a one person crusade. People are outraged by the race division, though, which just goes to show that racism is at least societally deemed a more taboo subject than sexism.

At the same time, I'm coming to realize that it's reality. (I know, a surprising concept from reality television.) Just as my students do, it's undeniable that many people, often subconsciously, choose to group themselves by race. As much as I'd like to pretend this sort of thing doesn't happen, it does. And by putting this topic in the spotlight, at least it's forcing people to talk about it.

So thank you, Survivor. Thank you for making us reflect on the way our world operates. I have hope that this series could actually have a positive impact on America. Unless, of course, some white folk ends up winning the million dollars. In that case, I fear riots worse than those that followed Rodney King.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I hate "Survivor: Eugenics"! And getting people to talk about contentious issues in an unmediated socially irresponsible forum just makes things worse. And when did "separate but equal" become "cutting edge?" I've written to CBS three times to tell them I'm boycotting them. I mean, my sisters and I each wrote to CBS once. (Although I secretly kept watching 'Big Brother.' I did stay off the website though).

Maybe they should follow it with a new "Amazing Race"--"Watch to find out once and for all which race is the most amazing!"

By the way, I also hate "boys vs. girls" challenges, especially since they are usually physical challenges which unfairly favor men. Kind of like life.