She went on about how horrible people were to criticize a respected tribal elder. (I don't belong to his tribe or his people, and I'll dare anything to end racism and stereotyping.) And how horrible they were to post comments on the Internet without contacting him first. (Because contacting a professional actor and getting a personal response is usually so easy.) But she said one thing that deserves a fuller response:
Michelle R. Shining Elk: YOU CAN'T UNDING A BELL...THE DAMAGE HAS BEEN DONE. THE DISRESPECT TO ELDER SAGINAW GRANT--TACTICS USED, DEPLORABLE.
Really, it's a cop-out to protest racism and stereotyping in the media? So we shouldn't do it? We should just let it happen and trust America's parents to cover their children's eyes and ears?
A typical MTV show has 2-3 million viewers. Let's say a million of those are children. Rather than criticizing MTV (and Grant), Shining Elk believes a million parents should've set aside an hour to watch the Dudesons with their children. When the stereotyping became evident, they should've turned off the TV.
A small number of parents (perhaps 10, 20, or 50) could persuade MTV to change its programming. That's more efficient than hoping a million overworked and exhausted parents will act. Fact is, they won't act, so pretending they will is the cop-out. It's a dodge to excuse Grant, Shining Elk, and anyone else who won't fight the problem.
Parents should screen everything?
But wait...that's only a small part of the problem. Studies show children spend something like six hours a day in front of the TV or computer. They're watching movies and TV shows, playing video games, and browsing websites. Any of these activities may expose them to negative stereotypes.
Something like 40 million American families have children at home. In these households, Shining Elk must expect the parents or guardians to set aside six hours a day to monitor the kids' activities. Because you never know when a Native stereotype will pop up on the screen. After all, who would've expected Finnish stuntmen to start pretending to be Indians?
Got that, parents? You may be overworked and stressed out now, but Shining Elk wants you to find another six hours a day to protect your kids from stereotypes. It's your responsibility, so quit complaining and do it. You don't need to work eight hours and sleep eight hours a day, do you? Get a part-time job, take stimulants to stay awake, but don't let your children see stereotypes.
Or you could take away their TVs and computers...forbid them to visit friends with TVs and computers...and keep them shut in at home. That would help them avoid the thousands of logos and products featuring stereotypical Indians. I don't know what these kids would do with their time, but maybe you could coax them to read.
But then the same problem arises, darn it. You'd have to pre-read their books for them to make sure they don't contain stereotypes. If a child spent 4-6 hours reading each book, you'd have to spend 4-6 hours screening it first.
Rather than this endless screening, perhaps Shining Elk expects parents to educate their children about Native stereotypes. That way, the children can avoid stereotypes on their own, without adult supervision.
Good idea...but it took me something like 10 years of reading books, newspapers, and websites to become reasonably well-informed about Indians. Does Shining Elk think parents will undertake the equivalent of a college degree in American Indian Studies to protect their children? If so, she's dreaming.
Blaming parents is the cop-out
I wonder what else Shining Elk expects parents to do. Let's see...parents could demand that police protect their families from harm...or they could patrol the streets for criminals themselves. They could demand the Food and Drug Administration ban unsafe products...or they could produce their own food and medicine. They could demand the EPA clean up pollution...or they could buy gas masks and oxygen tanks and breathe their own air.
You see how ridiculous this do-it-yourself approach is? Of course parents should try to monitor their kids' activities and protect them from the worst matter, but it's impossible to screen everything a child sees. It's stupid and illogical--a cop-out--to offer this as a "solution" to the problem.
The real solutions are the ones I've advocated all along. Tell the racists and stereotypers that what they're doing is wrong, and why. Inform them about the realities of Native culture and history. Educate the public about the same things. Encourage people to think critically rather than swallow what they see and hear in the media.
That's what we're doing by criticizing MTV, the Dudesons, and Grant for perpetuating Native stereotypes. Shining Elk can crusade for parents to regulate their children's lives while activists crusade for MTV et al. to stop the stereotyping. I'm confident that our approach will produce better results than hers will.
For more on the subject, see Saginaw Grant in The Dudesons and Natives Protest The Dudesons. For why it's important to protest stereotypes, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence. For a similar debate about parents vs. the media, see Highlights of the FTC Report on Media Violence.
Below: If you live in Cleveland, it's not the Cleveland Indians' fault for exposing you to Chief Wahoo. It's your fault for exposing yourself. Don't complain to the team about its racist logo when you can move to another city.