Monday, May 23, 2011

A response to National Geographic's Navajo Cops



This past week, I watched a rerun of National Geographic's newest show, Navajo Cops. You can watch a clip here The premise of the show is similar to Cops, but filmed on the Navajo reservation. Obviously, the show was littered with your average reprobates, thugs, trouble youths, etc. After watching the show, I couldn't help but cringe. The Navajo Nation, the largest American Indian tribe in the US, receives little if any national exposure. When we do, it's usually negative or stereotypical, for instance Oprah's visit to the Navajo Nation. Check it out here


So, to my dismay, Navajo Cops was just a reinforcement of negative stereotypes of American Indians.
We are drunks. We are vanishing. We are hopeless. We are destitute. 

I posted a link to the video on my facebook wall, and many of my Native friends  agreed with me. However, my Non-Native friends,  felt that the show brought attention to current situation on many Indian reservations that often goes unnoticed by Americans. True. I agree, however, my issue with the show was that there weren't enough positive portrayals of American Indians in the media to offset the damaging  stereotypes of American Indians in the mainstream media. Sure, the show Cops shows Whites in a negative light, but there are so many positive portrayals of Whites in the media to counter these negative stereotypes. Not so with many minority groups within America.



As you can see it is a double edge sword for the Navajo Nation and American Indians in general. On one hand there is exposure to the problems we face within our communities, but then the shows narrow focus only reinforce negative stereotypes. I for one wasn't hanging my head up high after watching this show! I felt extremely embarrassed for my nation and those unfortunate Navajo's who were seen in the show. Since the rez is such a small community, I know I must be related to one of them by blood or clan. I am sure I am going to hear about how my "cousin" was on Navajo Cops next time I return to the rez! Ugh!

15 comments:

Brotha Wolf said...

"After watching the show, I couldn't help but cringe.

That's how I felt when I watched the First 48. After the first few times, I quit.

By the way, I'm Brotha Wolf. I heard about this post from Racialicious.

Octavia said...

I got this link from Racialicious as well. This show - along with every Cops-type show I've seen - is horrible. (1) Because of the racial stereotypes encouraged, (2) because it teaches that punishment is the way to end problems (as opposed to adequate social services, rehabilitation, etc) and (3) because it teaches viewers that watching other people get caught/hurt/humiliated is entertainment.

And #3 is especially potent when there's race/ethnicity involved. I lived in Cincinnati for awhile and was horrified by the Police Women of Cincinnati show. Having lived there, it's a fucking destitute place but there is *some* life. Neither the lack of help for the poor nor the good parts of the city were highlighted.

Thanks for posting and drawing attention to this!

delia1138 said...

Linked here from Racialious. Just wanted to say I agree with everything you said. I remember watching an ep of this and just feeling kind of weirded out by the whole thing and couldn't really articulate why. Thankfully you wre able to though! Thanks for writing about this.

p.s I would like to read more of your posts, but I find it really difficult to read the black type on blue background and I'm probably not the only one having this problem. Is there any possiblity that you could change the color scheme to make it easier to read? Thanks either way!

Brotha Wolf said...

That's true, Octavia. I saw one episode of that Police Women show, and was disgusted by it. At the time I heard about a new cop show with Steven Segal, and I said to myself "Are they kiddin?"

Anonymous said...

This is a steriotype I am a Navajo too but national geographic's goal was so different because it want to show a new show about cops on the nations largest native American tribe it wasn't to show we are crazy it's to show that we are a tribe that isn't different from other people it is to show we are all the same

Anonymous said...

My opinion, I liked watching the show yes in fact it sucks to feel mad and at the same time bad for what was showed. That's what the tribe needs to focus on not GOSSIP! And Blame for what others decide to do with their own lives! If you want change blogging about it is not going to help step up and make a movement Change is not easy everyone needs to help... I'm bothered by the fact that all I ever hear is COMPLAINING if you want ppl to see good then do Good.. and all ppl are equal no matter color, race, drunk, rich, poor its up to You to make a difference and help each other out! When I went to visit Window Rock my experiance was of HATE everyone eyed my non-native husband and also a comment from an older so called elder said to us when we walked pass "Now you know how we felt with the long walk" really was not nessesary my husband is not racest and also serves our country he is a marine and fights for our freedom! Yeah he may be white but I'm also brown? No person should have to be treated any different. Back to the navajo cops whome ever was shown had a Choice n they as well as any other person faces punishment its the law. If you feel bad about thinking its sterotype their are so many things in this world going on n that's just a piece of what really happens on the rez sad but true.. I'm ranting on about my opinion not a statement... Thank u for reading if anyone reads this! -pat

Gramma Deschilly said...

I live on the Navajo rez. And I am so proud of our Navajo Cops. They have to deal with things that no righteous Navajo would even think about dealing with. They do their darnest to keep us safe with what meager resources are provided to them. The Navajo people have their own police force and not BIA police. I am damn proud of our Navajo Cops. I am looking forward to upcoming episodes on National Geographic. If you don't like the show, then simply change the channel.

Anonymous said...

The show shows the truth the people that disagree are the ones that attempt to hide what goes on the sadness of it is that most of the people arrested are living off the goverment. Now the assistant checks need to stop if they want the drinking to stop. And families need to take care of there own families and stop depending on the police to do it for them. So if your embarrased then take care of your own family, and be proud of what they become.

Native Bee

mikeginla@aol.com said...

I was part of the crew that worked on the show and I was impress with the job that the Navajo Police did with their limited manpower & resources. The guys we rode with all were trying to do something positive for the Navajo nation. I think they did the show with the hope that the federal government would give the tribal police more money once they saw the situation on the reservation.

I do not think anyone working on the show wanted to cast the Navajo people in a negative light. In fact we were hoping to shoot in the winter and show the officers helping people effected by the extreme weather. I do not know what happened with that, but I think it would have been nice.

I hope that the future brings more opportunity to the Navajo People and a way to handle the alcohol issue.

Anonymous said...

So after seeing it. I mean its reality tv. You cant take everything thats on TV to heart and say its true. That people will see only the negative in it. Its a show about laws being broken samething you get on the other reality show cops. If we cant look at things in a different view or at least try to view from the creators eyes (in this case), can we honestly be angry. We are just being stubborn in this case. Why get mad about it, What are you doing to try to get the youth to make a positive choice, to get the druggie/alcoholic to over come their addictions and off the streets, are you making events are you giving them money, buying them food, helping them get in a shelter, are you helping those victims? If you HONESTLY CANT say YES to any of these questions. Well you should try to make a difference first, thats what the person did when they created this show. We complain when we are ignored and we are shown on TV we complain. Dont like whats on TV change it make your own show, help the communty, embrace the positive and dream big and take it far. Maybe we will see your show next on the positive side.

Anonymous said...

if u don't like this show, make your own! post something positive, make a "positive" show about the Navajo people, because it seems like this show is the only way to get attention to the drug and alcohol problem that lies on the rez and somebody needs to start paying attention! our people need to wake up and if it takes this show to help us wake up then so be it, if we keep "hiding" our problems, they will never get fixed. And the Navajo police deserve to be recognized for their work, they put themselves out there every single day!

Antz said...

Navajo cops is by far tha best show I've seen thus far, not only do we seee what our men and women of native law enforcement deal with on a day to day basis. I give a lot of props to NATGEO for doing a show about how we really live out here on da Rez!....itz sad to say our Navajo Nation iz being over takin by Drugs, Gangs, and Alcoholism, etc. and not to long ago we lost an elite officer ( Mr. Curly) when he was called to a domestic dispute. so when I read ur blog I have to dis agree with it, I hope they ( Natgeo) continues to film on da Rez..

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the first airings of this show... I hear there were some episodes last year, so I just found this on NatGeo about 5 episodes ago. I'm native from a small rez in California, and I want to tell you that I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO PROUD OF NATIVE PEOPLE!!! I have loved seeing the professionalism of the Navajo officers... and yet, they have HEART! They love their people, they want to make a difference, they have respect for all... And I think that anyone who cannot see that... Of course, we have all the social ills... alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence... and now gang influence as well... Every community in America... native or not... has these same social ills. But Navajo Cops showcases what our own community is doing to address our own problems. I absolutely love these guys... I live in a P.L. 280 state, which in our rural areas, we are reliant upon the "local yokels" for law enforcement. Believe me, the professionalism shown by the officers on the Navajo Cops show far exceed anything that we have available to us. Kudoes, kudoes, kudoes!

PrairieCal@aol.com said...

I haven't seen this show. I was all set to watch an episode online at National Geographic's site, but your comments made me feel it was not something I'd enjoy. There are enough negative stereotypes about Native Americans in general and Native of the Southwest Tribes in particular that I don't need to see anymore. I prefer to remember my own contacts with Navajos and Acomas and the positive impression they made on me.

Matthew Bach said...

Can I ask how old you are? If you don't watch any non Native American artists or movies then how can you know the way your people are portrayed? I grew up in typical American schools and let me say, we don't know a lot about Natives. We know more about Black history than Native American History. I have watched the show and I'm sorry that it shows the negative side and that's what you choose to focus on, but I focused on the policemen telling me about their culture and their beleifs and I was truly fascinated in that. You are humans. If you ever watch cops then you can see the world is filled with plenty of white trash. I'm sorry there are stereotypes but you aren't the only ones who feel this. Honestly, I wish more Native American history was taught in schools. I would like to know about that part of my heritage.