Has Anything Really Changed?

My decision to get involved in the MTV / The Dudesons in America protest was a no-brainer, knee-jerk reaction.  I saw a post on AIM’s Facebook page, noted the contact information, and started writing a letter of protest within the hour.  A blog followed shortly thereafter.

What I didn’t expect or anticipate was some of the feedback.  Not only on my own blog, but those of others writing about this issue.

Apparently there are some people out there who aren’t convinced that The Dudesons in America episode entitled “Cowboys & Findians” is racist, offensive, or that it perpetuates stereotypes.

Really??

I’m an idealist…always have been.  But knowing on a conscious level that I am an idealist doesn’t always prepare me for that occasional whack in the head by cold, harsh reality — when someone expresses views that are so contrary to my own.

When someone just doesn’t get it.

Anyone under the age of 50, who was raised on the colorblind, diversity-embracing dogma that Sesame Street spoonfed us each day HAS to be an idealistic, humanistic, culturally sensitive and tolerant sort of person.  I mean, you don’t watch an oversized yellow bird becoming best friends with a brown fuzzy elephant, while the humans who lived on the block were African-American, Latino, an interracial couple, and a deaf woman, to name a few.  Even the resident not-so-nice-guy on the street was tolerated and accepted.  Oh, and a purple vampire lived there, too.  And those with horns on their heads, and bike horns for noses.

You don’t watch that seven days a week without getting the bigger picture.  Diversity is a beautiful thing.  Right??

Apparently not.

While the majority of the comments on my Dudesons blog have been favorable and in support of the protest against MTV, there were just enough people who didn’t seem to get it to make me do the math.  Statistics.  Blog view counts, view-to-comment ratios…

Wow, there are a lot of ignorant people out there.

And all this got me to thinking.

Have things changed at all in the last 40 years?  Are people really any less prejudiced, racist and ignorant than they were during the 1960s?  Or…is it just that people are more politically correct in what they do or say when they know someone is listening?

In search of an answer to that question, I stumbled across this video on YouTube.

I laughed, I cringed, I got mad, and then I cringed some more.  And then I got mad again and decided to post about it.

Easy to remember rule of thumb: make me mad, and I’m going to blog.

This video footage is from 1972.  I was three years old.  (Now you know how old I am, and you need to sign a confidentiality agreement. )

So while I was watching Sesame Street and becoming indoctrinated to the ways of the lifelong path of a tolerant, diversity-loving and culturally sensitive liberal, the adults in this video were being randomly interviewed on the street, during New York City’s Easter Parade.

And I’m embarrassed FOR them.

The burning question in my mind is whether the answers would be any different, if asked today.

The idealist in me wants to believe that they would be.

Cold, harsh reality tells me otherwise.

So does that episode of The Dudesons in America.

The problem from the very beginning has been the negative and outrageously false stereotyping of Native Americans.  From the earliest days of the penny Western novel, the indigenous people of this country have been portrayed to white America as unintelligent, savage, crude, uncivilized, and (GASP) heathens who have no religion.  The 19th century images of savagery and brutality gave way in the mid-20th century to cartoon-like caricatures, where Native Americans were shown as no more than dimwitted buffoons.

I shouldn’t have to sit here and tell you that none of these things are true.  A lot of you already know this.

But too many people don’t know.  Far too many people haven’t the slightest understanding of what it truly means to be Native American.  They know nothing of history, and have instead bought into the lies and revisionism.  They know nothing about culture, traditions or spirituality, and instead have believed the distortions and stereotypes.  All they have in their heads are lies and propaganda — the propaganda that the media, in all its forms, has helped to perpetuate to this very day.

And if programs like The Dudesons in America continue to poison the airwaves and the minds of everyone who watches it, can we reasonably expect the answers to those questions posed to the random man or woman on the street to be any different another 40 years from now?

Now for those of you who still don’t get it, I have a few more words.  I can be fair about it, and acknowledge that you may not personally find the program or its content offensive — that you just don’t get it.  But in return, you have to acknowledge that there are in fact many people who do find it offensive.  Instead of closing your mind and washing your hands of the matter, look a little bit deeper.  Ask yourself why it is that people are offended and outraged.  Do you honestly believe that people have nothing better to do than to complain and protest without reason?  There’s a world of reason.  But it may be that you refuse to see or acknowledge it.  Those of you who are still in the “I don’t get it” camp, I’d like you to consider this a personal challenge.  Stop for just a moment, and think outside your own little perspective box.  It begins with self-education, is followed by empathy, and ultimately, will lead to enlightenment.  If enlightenment should lead to outrage, I will consider it a personal victory.

I am not so naive as to believe that racism and the stereotyping of Native Americans will suddenly end with the permanent removal of this offensive Dudesons in America episode.  But it’s a damned good start in the right direction.

For those of you who do get it, keep writing.  Make those phone calls.  Keep telling MTV that you will not tolerate stereotyping and racism in any form, and that you want your children and grandchildren to inherit something better than the status quo.

And no, I don’t need the world to be the mirror image of Sesame Street.  But I really wouldn’t mind living a world that more closely resembles it.

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The Dudesons in America ~ Racism and Stereotyping at its Finest…and Lowest.

This is one of those times when I have mixed feelings about drawing attention to an offensive program.  This is a show that doesn’t deserve publicity or a larger audience.

But I have no choice but to call attention to the latest episode of The Dudesons in America.

The Dudesons, a television series that has been stimulating the intellect of the dumb and dumber in Finland for a decade or so, has been brought to an American audience and aptly renamed The Dudesons in America.  All this, courtesy of MTV.

MTV has not exactly been known for its quality programming, and hasn’t given anyone a compelling reason to tune into that channel since the early 80s.

With The Dudesons in America, however, MTV has sunk to an all-time low.

The episode entitled, “Cowboys & Findians” is chock-full of racial stereotyping and material so deeply offensive to Native Americans, that I believe even Andrew Jackson, who was not widely known for his deep and abiding love for the indigenous people of this country, would have been appalled.

For those of you who were fortunate enough to have missed the airing of this offensive piece of trash, I congratulate you.  But I am going to ask you to make the supreme sacrifice now.  Watch the episode.  I’ll be here when you get back.  Go…watch.

http://www.mtv.com/videos/the-dudesons-ep-2-cowboys-findians/1639129/playlist.jhtml

UPDATE:  MTV removed this video from its website sometime during the evening of 5/21. 

The video can be viewed in streaming format here:

http://www.megavideo.com/?d=46TTM4HI

and at its new host site here:

PART ONE:

http://yfrog.com/5ddudesonspart1z

PART TWO:

http://yfrog.com/bcdudesons2z

 

Don’t be misled or confused by the fact that the producers of this show were able to find a Native American who was willing to participate in this show.  He is but one man, and does not speak for all Native Americans.  The American Indian Movement (AIM) is asking its members and supporters — and anyone who has the sense to see this episode for the hateful, racist and stereotypical piece of trash that it is — to write to MTV and express their outrage.

I have written to MTV (at length) and have demanded that this episode never be aired again, and that a formal and public apology be offered to the Native American people.  (Those interested in reading my letter of protest can read it at the end of this post.)

If the episode is not permanently pulled from the airwaves (and internet), and an apology issued by June 1, 2010, there will be a boycott of MTV, its sponsors and affiliates.

It only takes a few minutes of your time to let MTV know how you feel.  Your opinion and voice matter.  Please get involved, and let MTV know that this kind of racial stereotyping and offensive material will not be tolerated.

 

PROTEST/CONTACT INFORMATION:

Melissa Barreto
Senior Publicist, MTV
melissa.barreto@mtvstaff.com
212.846.7226

Stephanie Berman
Senior Director, MTV
stephanie.berman@mtvstaff.com
212.846.7175

Jeff Castaneda
Vice President, MTV
jeff.castaneda@mtvstaff.com
212.846.6774

Janice Gatti
Director, MTV
janice.gatti@mtvstaff.com
212.846.8852

A.J. Sarcione
Senior Publicist, MTV
AJ.Sarcione@mtvstaff.com
310.752.8082

American Indian Movement – Santa Barbara (aimsb@ymail.com)

http://mtvpress.com/contacts
http://dudesons.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Dudesons
http://www.myspace.com/thedudesons

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Re: The Dudesons In America /Episode #2 – “Cowboys & Findians”

Dear Sirs/Madams:

I am writing to express my disgust and outrage with regard to the episode of The Dudesons In America entitled “Cowboys & Findians.”

The cultural insensitivity, stereotyping, and blatant racism in this episode is appalling.  Shame on all of you for perpetuating the negative, hateful and erroneous stereotypes that Native Americans have fought for so many years to correct and eradicate.  Frankly, you haven’t just perpetuated stereotypes — you have gone so far as to create brand new ones.

I hesitate to provide a group of adult professionals with a history lesson, but after viewing the episode in question, it seems to me that one may be in order.  Many years of systematic slaughter, broken treaties, and unspeakable acts of brutality and callousness culminated in the forced removal and relocation of Native Americans to reservations.  This, however, was not the end of the story.  It was only the beginning.  Native Americans were not only forced to give up their ancestral homelands, but their very identities.  They were robbed by force of their traditions, their culture, their spirituality, their languages, and everything that was sacred to them.  Their children were taken away from their families, and were sent to government-run boarding schools, where they were beaten, brainwashed, and stripped against their will of everything that defined them.  This is not ancient history we are referring to — as of the 1970s, tens of thousands of Native American children were still attending those schools.

It is only in more recent years that Native Americans have truly felt the societal freedom to once again wholeheartedly embrace their traditions, culture, languages, and all that was once part of the sacred fabric of their lives.  Ironically enough, many non-Natives have at the same time become utterly fascinated with Native American culture.  Over the last two decades or so, Native American music, culture, spirituality (and any and all things Native American or Native-related) have become “trendy” with non-Natives.  This has been a double-edged sword for the Native American people.

On the one hand, this shift in American thinking has, in some ways, fostered a reawakening of Native American pride, and has allowed a more open embracing of the traditions, culture, and language that the people were, for so many years, wrongfully denied.  But the downside is obvious.  Native Americans are now witnessing yet another wholesale American theft: that of their traditions, languages, and spirituality, by non-Natives who often distort, bastardize, misconstrue, and even those who attempt to make a profit.  In the case of your program, the distortion and bastardization of Native American culture has been taken to new lows, as it was done in a manner of mockery and complete disrespect.

The episode “Cowboys & Findians” stands apart in terms of stereotyping and racism.  You have sent a negative and hateful message to millions of people.  But I ask you: would you even attempt to parody an African tribe in such a manner?  I think not.  The backlash from the NAACP, the media, and public at large would be immediate and powerful.  What you fail to recognize is that it is no less unacceptable to portray Native Americans in such a light.

We all know that racism is wrong — in any form.  But there is much more to this than cultural sensitivity.  To willfully mock and distort the traditions, culture, and spirituality of Native Americans — when they have only recently fully reclaimed the very identities that were forcibly robbed from them not so very long ago — isn’t only politically incorrect and insensitive, it is simply inexcusable.  The fact of the matter is this: as long as the “stereotypical Indian” is portrayed on the screen, in print, or any other form of media, the general and largely uninformed public will, on some level, believe those stereotypes to be true — or at the very least, will continue to fail to recognize that they themselves are perpetuating racism.

As you may or may not be aware, this week marks a precedent-setting event in Native American history.  On Wednesday, May 19, 2010, the United States Congress offered a formal apology to representatives of five Native American tribes, for the “ill-conceived policies” and acts of violence and atrocities committed against the Native American people.  It is an apology that was long overdue.  Can you recognize the irony in the timing of the broadcast of this hate-filled and racist television program, when the U.S. Government itself is seeking to make amends for the incalculable wrongs that it committed?

Interestingly enough, the MTV website (http://www.mtvnetworkscareers.com/about-us/) states the following, in part:

“At MTV Networks, we like to use our powers for good. Our award-winning pro-social initiatives – which raise awareness about important social, educational, health, environmental and other current issues – as well as our partnerships with leading nonprofit organizations, are an integral part of the work we do every day. We’re proud to champion the causes that matter to our audiences and their communities. Check out our pro-social campaigns below and find out how MTV Networks walks the walk when it comes to giving back.” [emphasis added]

The damage has already been done, and it cannot be undone.  But, as MTV has stated within its own website, you can use your powers for good.  You have the power to make things right.  You have the power to raise awareness about important social issues — and I can’t think of a more important issue than the present one for you to address and rectify.

Nothing short of a formal and public apology to the Native American people should be forthcoming at this point.  This heinous and hateful episode should never again be aired in any format, whether on television, the internet, DVD compilations, or elsewhere.  This is an episode that rightfully belongs on a dark, dusty shelf in your Hall of Shame, and it should remain there forever.

You should be aware that this matter is being taken very seriously.  You have outraged and offended many people.  A non-response — or the wrong response — will invariably result in the immediate and indefinite boycott of MTV, as well as all its advertisers and affiliates.  If the episode is not permanently removed from public view and an apology issued by June 1, 2010, the boycotting will begin.

The world is watching.  Do the right thing.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Yuhas-Gall