April 30, 2010

Students draw what they know

UNL student surveys show Native stereotypes

By Kevin Abourezk[M]any of the UNL students asked during a recent student survey to draw their perceptions of Natives drew bottles of booze and casinos. Others, headdresses and tipis.

One student simply wrote: "I'm a terrible artist, but here are labels: victims, oppressed, impoverished."

Another wrote: "Poor. Live in trailers or old houses. Alcoholics. Disfunctional (sic) homes. Pay for cable before food. Many kids, high school dropouts."
And:The student team received 26 completed surveys, and Buxton created a website to showcase the responses. The forms also asked students whether they had taken any college courses on Native people.

Buxton said the five students who said they had drew far fewer stereotypical images than those who hadn't. Students who said they knew Native people personally also drew fewer stereotypical images, he said.

Johnna Hjersman, a senior news-editorial student who was part of the team, said several students who drew stereotypical images on their forms expressed guilt at doing so.

"They knew that it wasn't accurate, but they didn't know any better so that's what they had to draw to be accurate (about their perceptions)," she said.

Buxton blamed media portrayal of Natives as drunks and historical figures for the stereotypes expressed by the students. He said there is no single image that can depict an entire race of people.

"They're people, just regular people," he said.
How would you define a Native American?

Some representative drawings from the survey and possible sources for the images:

Comment:  This is perfect. The students admitted they don't know anything about Indians. Their drawings prove their heads are filled with stereotypes.

The few who took classes about Indians or knew Indians personally drew fewer stereotypes. The researcher states the only possible conclusion: that most people get their Indian "information" from the media. Not from personal experience, but from words and images repeated throughout our culture.

One probably could quiz every American and get the same story from 98% of them. "I've never met any Indians. I'm not sure if they're still alive. All I know about them are chiefs, teepees, arrows, feathers, drums, booze, and casinos. I know these things because I saw them in movies and on TV."

And yet we hear from endless idiots who think media stereotypes don't matter. Who think there's nothing wrong with dressing up in a headdress or costume and playing Indian. Who think that stereotypical chiefs and warriors on school logos don't teach us that Indians are chiefs and warriors.

Indians are idiots too

Some of these idiots are even Indians. For instance, the Sioux tribal members who think UND's "Fighting Sioux" nickname has nothing to do with the public's perception of Indians as vanquished warriors. Or intellectual wannabes like Kiowa Russell Bates who think movies portraying savages have nothing to do with the public's perception of Indians as savages.

These idiots never try to explain away the mountains of evidence linking media stereotypes to people's perceptions. Evidence such as this posting. I presume they can't explain away the evidence because it's so obviously true. There's no source for Native stereotypes except the media.

People think the sky is blue because that's what they see. They think Indians are stereotypical chiefs and warriors for the same reason. Monkey see, monkey believe.

For more on what youngsters know about Indians, see:

Kids can't resist brainwashing
Seeing Indians is believing
Phony tribes, headdresses, totem poles
"Grey Eagle" teaches stereotypes

For more on the subject in general, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.


ChristineRose said...

This is excellent. Whenever I speak in classrooms, I start the discussion with, What do you know about Indians? The things kids have said would make your head spin, but its a great place to begin the discussion of stereotypes.

Having the kids do drawings is ten times better because it proves without a shadow of a doubt why formal education about Native people historically and today is of the utmost importance.

Anonymous said...

Why does Rob think its "perfect" because these youngsters don't know hoot about Natives??? Ignorance doesn't justify perfection. But instead they need EDUCATION. Indeed, its true that some Natives are idiots like the ones that are promoting racist sports teams mascots, thinking they(white clowns dressed as Natives) are honoring them when they actually don't. But they make up the 1% in the Native communities. Which is why the UND's racist logo was retired.

Rob said...

"This is perfect" as in a perfect encapsulation of the problem. As my subsequent comments made clear.