A response to South Park: "Red Man's Greed":
A Native complains that the South Park episode stereotyping Indians was just a joke:
Hello, I am a Chippewa Indian. I have been reading your website and I think that it is really good in addressing our issue. But it seems too Politically Correct. We have to learn to laugh at stuff and not take offense to every little thing. I belong to a website called The Internet Movie Database, and I post my ideas about mascots and stereotypes there. I convinced other people about our situation, but I came to realize that I sounded like a whiny Indian who complains over everything. I saw something that critisized South Park because of their portrayal of us. But here is the thing: South Park is famous for their stereotypical portrayals of other races. It isn't meant to be offensive, it's meant to be funny. If their was a comic that used racial slurs against us, then action would need to be taken. But some stereotypical stuff needs to slide. We need to stop being politically correct. For example, I prefer being called an "Indian" over "Native american". Why? Because "Indian" is Spanish for "indegenous". It wasn't meant because Columbus thought that we were from India. India wasn't even called India when Columbus was looking for it. It was called Hindustan. Native american also refers to everyone born in america. So that doesn't fit, and I actually think it is funny when people call us Native americans.
We just need to lighten up and not take things so personal. We have to learn how to laugh every now and then.
>> I have been reading your website and I think that it is really good in addressing our issue. <<
>> We have to learn to laugh at stuff and not take offense to every little thing. <<
I'm not necessarily offended by the things I write about. As far as stereotypes go, I'm just keeping track of all the ones I encounter. I'm more like a librarian who catalogs every book or a baseball statistician who records every hit. They don't get personally involved in the works they organize and neither do I.
>> I convinced other people about our situation, but I came to realize that I sounded like a whiny Indian who complains over everything. <<
I may sound whiny, but I'm not an Indian. And since most people praise my Stereotype of the Month contest, I doubt I'm coming across badly.
>> But here is the thing: South Park is famous for their stereotypical portrayals of other races. It isn't meant to be offensive, it's meant to be funny. <<
I think it's meant to be offensive as well as funny. The creators think being offensive is funny.
And I don't think they're "equal-opportunity offenders." I don't think anyone is or can be. When you have a limited amount of time and space, you have to make choices.
Parker and Stone are known for being conservative-libertarian types. Their Team America: World Police movie savaged liberal do-gooders far more than it did right-wing politicians. And since the latter are a much bigger threat, they deserved more scorn and ridicule, not an equal amount.
So if you don't like my critiques of South Park, which critiques do you like? In my Stereotype of the Month contest, I do an average of 10 or 12 a month. Which of those would you include and which would you exclude? Based on what criteria?
Luckily, most people, including most Indians, don't think I'm being too politically correct. See The Web Fans Speak for their opinions.
>> If their was a comic that used racial slurs against us, then action would need to be taken. But some stereotypical stuff needs to slide. <<
I generally don't take any action other than documenting stereotypes. If no one acts on the stereotypes, that's okay by me. I'm doing this to educate people in general, not to change the particular people who stereotype.
>> We need to stop being politically correct. For example, I prefer being called an "Indian" over "Native american". <<
I use "Indian" and "Native" interchangeably. That's one example of how I'm not being politically correct.
When I point out a stereotype, I explain why it's incorrect. If I include it, you can be sure it's not just politically incorrect, it's historically, culturally, or biologically incorrect.
Unfortunately, you're ignoring the profound effect of stereotypes like those in South Park. For instance, where do you think the image of greedy casino owners comes from? Did it just bubble up out of nowhere? No, it comes from negative portrayals like the one in South Park.
Many experts think stereotyping is one of the primary problems facing Indians. As Wilma Mankiller said, "Perception is as much of a threat as anti-sovereignty legislation. We have to regain control of our image." As Indian Country Today wrote, "Proper and realistic representation in the media is crucial for the protection of American Indian peoples' inherent and treaty rights."
For more on the subject, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence.
>> It wasn't meant because Columbus thought that we were from India. India wasn't even called India when Columbus was looking for it. It was called Hindustan. <<
Columbus thought he had reached the East Indies—the islands off the east coast of Asia—not India. I believe that's the most common theory about why he called the natives "Indians."
>> We just need to lighten up and not take things so personal. We have to learn how to laugh every now and then. <<
Since I'm not an Indian, I don't take these stereotypes personally. I document them because I think they're wrong intellectually, not because I feel they're wrong emotionally.
I laugh at the few instances of people poking fun at Indians without stereotyping them. It is possible, you know. Many Indian productions do it, as do some non-Indian productions (e.g., the Saturday Night Live 25th anniversary special, Christmas in the Clouds, PEACE PARTY).
Anyway, thanks for writing. You can follow the latest arts and entertainment news in my Newspaper Rock blog, where Native America meets pop culture.
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