Saturday, August 26, 2006

Separate But Equal Opportunity

Divisionary issues and tactics are usually the things that anti-racists fight against vehemently. In a world that is constantly labeling and dividing its' peoples along the lines of race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation the multicultural tableau takes one hell of a beating.

Others have often marveled at the American landscape of diversity and how well it all works together. In fact, this amazing achievement may well be our crowning glory - our most venerable triumph.

Rather than celebrating this stunning accomplishment, however, there are those who exploit it, those who decry it, and those who loathe it. As we move further into the 21st Century it appears that extremism will be the fare of the day. It also appears that the extremism will be further fueled by extreme sports, extreme music, and reality TV.

Recently CBS announced their air date and time along with the changes for this year's Survivor series to the consternation of many, including veteran viewers. Waning in the popularity polls and drawing fire over its' obvious lack of minority participants, the producers desperation manifested itself in a bizarre and heavily criticized twist.

Normally, Survivor is made up of sixteen contestants. This year there will be 20 - five white, five Hispanic, five Asian, and five African-Americans. And, if you haven't already heard, there will be four teams divided along racial lines. In other words, the Race War starts here?

Admitting that they realized that their decision would be a controversial one, the Producers emphatically denied that the decision was made to improve the ratings. Jeff Probst, the host of the show said, "It's very risky because you're bringing up a topic that is a hot button. There's a history of segregation you can't ignore. It is part of our history."

Probst went on to tell the Associated Press, "For that, it's much safer to say, 'No, let's just stick with things the way they are. Let's don't be the network to rock the boat. Let's not have "Survivor" try something new, but the biases from home can't affect you. This is an equal opportunity game."

Survivor might very well be an equal opportunity game, but is dividing the contestants on racial lines but what is the potential blowback of such an action? To say in one breath that the history of segregation cannot be ignored and then claim equality is an absolute throwback to the whole "Separate but Equal" tenet that ruled this country shamefully.

The pot of gold at the end of the series of one million cool ones might be enough to allow the contestants to set aside the obvious racial issues that are sure to arise, and the producers may truly believe that they can handle this situation responsibly. But the question still remains - are they oblivious to how far this could set back the progress that has been made towards multicultural acceptance.

The road to equality has been an arduous one. People have died and blood has been shed. Although the battle is not yet over, the gains made in the areas of civil and human rights have been commendable. Anything that threatens those accomplishments should be met directly and resisted at all costs. Throughout cyber-space there are those vowing not to watch this season. To them I would say - Oh! Please DO watch. Watch and listen not only to the show but to what is being said by the conservatives, by the shock-jocks, by the racists, and by everyday people. And when racism raises its' ugly head, have a verbal slap down handy - because the fight just took on a whole new look.

Personally, I believe this move to be reprehensible. To say that I am disappointed that, supposedly responsible, adults have stooped to this level in order to make a buck would be a gross understatement. All-in-all, however, it just means that we have to be more vigilant and more active. It also means that we all need to be citizens against hate who take up the banner of multicultural acceptance. Nothing that divides us is good.

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1 comment:

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