On Sept. 14, the new season of “Survivor” is due to premiere. This time the teams are divided by race. Twenty people will compete in the following racial groups: black, white, Asian and Latino. For historical, societal and commonsense reasons, the theme of this year’s “Survivor” is tasteless and inapt. It’s unfortunate that CBS has the audacity to facilitate such a competition.
The psychological effects of such a race war are damaging to the viewer. It becomes easy for one to root for the team they racially identify with while rooting against the rival team. In teams constructed solely based on race, it becomes easy to imagine “us and them” divisions, and thus tempting for people to practice racism. This race war will end with winners and losers – which would endorse notions of superior and inferior races.
For CBS and the producers of “Survivor,” this is merely a promotional tool. Given its controversial nature, the show will probably have high ratings, and viewers across the nation will watch this grotesque marketing attempt.
Aside from the immediate psychological effects, one must also contemplate the lessons this teaches to youth and the societal norms that this behavior sets. It is important to question how far this can go. The show teaches that it’s OK to divide people in this manner. When children in the playground want to emulate this behavior, which appears appropriate because it was aired on television, how will parents explain?
The implications of the upcoming premiere also beg one to explore the direction this is steering reality television. And while there is room for healthy competitiveness and flirting with difference in entertainment, CBS has crossed all those lines. Furthermore, for a society to be able to endure the challenges such entertainment presents, a level of race consciousness that surpasses the cultural competency of many Americans is required. Frankly, this society is not there yet. Racism in this country runs long and deep; its history inescapable, and its present is, well, present.