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!