Survivor took the TV world by storm six years ago. And then in typical copycat fashion, networks whipped up one stormy (and sometimes steamy) show after another. Now we are deluged by reality.
The latest Survivor shouldn’t survive. Producers of the ratings-starved CBS show this fall will group participants by race and have them compete as racial tribes. That’s right: Instead of celebrating the American ideal that anyone from any background can succeed through hard work and working with others, CBS will test our worst prejudices. Any result will be failure.
If Anglo-Americans win, will it be their organizational ability? If African-Americans, athleticism? If Hispanic-Americans, family values? If Asian-Americans, superior intelligence?
This only further deepens stereotypes that limit the potential of people of any race. Blacks can achieve academically. Whites can run and jump and hit and score. Asians can use brawn as well as brains. And Hispanics can strategize and implement a plan.
Cultural strengths may exist to a greater degree in some groups than others, but these should contribute to the well being of everyone, not simply to one’s own ethnic group. Why would God have created such diversity if not for the good of everyone? If we are all created in God’s image, the defeat or diminishment of any group means the defacing of God.
What’s more, the language of race is tired. There is only one race: the human race. Ethnicities abound, and the distinct characteristics of ethnic foods and rituals and histories enrich us all. Yet hyphenated identities tend to drive wedges between Americans of all kinds. And since whites are seldom hyphenated (how often do you read European-Americans?), the implication is that they are full-blooded Americans and all others are half-breed imports. Nonsense. Ask Native Americans how that feels.
People of faith and people of good will should flick off Survivor on their remotes this fall.
More creative protests are in order, though. Resolve not to pass on jokes that grossly generalize ethnic groups. Educate children to celebrate diversity and not see it as a threat. Develop friendships with people of other ethnicities. Expect businesses and governments and churches to embrace the whole community and not retreat into ethnic cocoons.
Two great Americans offered better survival strategies. Benjamin Franklin: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” And Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.”