Thursday, 1 March 2012

Rejecting the Stereotype of Victimhood

Mainstream American media representations of indigenous peoples as helpless victims is contested by the people themselves—the children who were the subject of an ABC news network “Hidden America: Children of the Plains” have made a responsive video saying “We are more than that” rejecting what they felt was inaccurate and one dimensional stereotyping.

Their responsive video presents their own views about who they are, and rejects the idea of a hapless, hopeless, victimhood. This, I think, demonstrates the importance of indigenous voice in discussion of indigenous issues. Stereotypes are prevalent, and even well-meant mainstream media presentations perhaps unwittingly play into the triad of characterisation--"Savages, Victims and Saviors" that Makua Matua warned made up the international human rights regime.Mutua scathingly notes the three part metaphor is a part of the “biased and arrogant rhetoric and history of the human rights enterprise.”

The ABC clip does present a view of the indigenous community as desperately diminished from their proud warrior past, now the victims of life. It suggests that while having moved on from the “noble savage” of the past, the indigenous peoples are victims—with the implicit message that rescue is surely needed.

The Indian Country Today Media Network reports on the response that was made, and the reason for the response. The students felt that the ABC story did not present the entire picture of who they were, focussing solely on negative aspects and not providing any message that fell outside of the " savages, victims and saviors" metaphor described by Matua.

NPR carried a story on the students’ video response and their recent trip to Washington DC press the need for more funds for indigenous homelands schools. The NPR story makes the point that in rejecting the depiction as of the ABC report that there is far more to consider about indigenous peoples and their community than the report ever considered: “The point the students are trying to make, says English teacher Heather Hanson, is that they're not victims.”

No comments :