By Bobbi Booker
The Book Report
Civil rights groups across the nation have blasted the decision by CBS Television to support the producers of the Survivor reality show contest that will set contestants against each other according to race. The announcement of the segregated edition of Survivor comes on the eve of a $1 million racial discrimination trail of a former CBS Radio employee who was forced to resign from WIP-AM sports radio.
According to Duane Lucas, the plaintiff in the upcoming trail against WIP, the announcement about the new season of Survivor is an example of “the consistent arrogance of the company.”
“Racism has gone uncheck in this company for years and nobody challenges them,” said Lucas. “One of the things that happens in this business is that you can’t jump up and scream, ‘racism,’ because where are you going to get a job at next. So you have to be really professional and sure of what’s going on. Racism is what domestic violence was 40 years ago: you didn’t talk about it.”
Lucas started his career at WIP radio as an account executive in 1994 and in a year was promoted to Director of Sport Sales. He was responsible for the station’s base of advertisers and sponsors and for developing new business in support of the station’s programming for the Philadelphia Eagles, 76er’s and Flyers. According to court papers filed in the United States District court, Lucas was the target of a racially motivated campaign to discredit him and his fellow black colleagues, including talk show hosts Gary Cobb and Carlos Beck, both of whom filed discrimination charges against WIP’s parent company, CBS radio. In 2002, Lucas resigned after receiving a nearly 50% reduction in his salary.
WIP-AM management was unavailable for comments when called on Friday. Earlier in the week, CBS Networks officials issued a statement of support for producers’ decision to pit Blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics against each other during the early rounds of the show.
“CBS fully recognizes the controversial nature of this format but has full confidence in the producers and their ability to produce the program in a responsible manner,” the network said in a statement. “Survivor is a program that is no stranger to controversy and has always answered its critics on the screen.”
Last season, Survivor registered a franchise-low average of 16.8 million viewers. In announcing this season contestants, show host Jeff Probst insisted the stunt was the next logical step in a series that made its name on exploring social politics.
“If this didn’t say Jeff Probst, I would think that this was something that was produced by David Duke,” said Lucas who charges that CBS’s decision to support the Survivor show proposal is indicative of the corporate culture of the network.
“How long have we been experimenting with this?” wondered Lucas. “Through hangings, through church bombings, through hate crimes, through cross burnings? How much more do we need to experiment with separation of the races?”
On Friday, a group of New York City officials blasted CBS’ announcement that it has split the contestants on Survivor: Cook Islands into tribes by race.
“This idea is so ill-conceived that it would be funny–but for the fact that racism does still sometimes rear its ugly head,” New York city councilman John Liu said at a press conference.” This show has the potential to set back our nation’s race relations by 50 years.”
“CBS has demonstrated great lapse in judgment. As a society, we need to hold corporations responsible for their actions,” New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito said.
“I think that in Survivor they should have the strongest teams that they can,” said Lucas. “Why divide this by race? Why send us back another 200 years? This is just world-class ugly.”
The spread of negative racial stereotypes based on CBS’ decision has already begun on the nation’s airwaves. Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has already uttered racially insensitive comments on his national syndicated broadcast.
Hispanics, he said, “have shown a remarkable ability to cross borders” and “will do things other people won’t do.” Asians, according to Limbaugh, are “the best at espionage, keeping secrets.” Blacks, he said, “lack buoyancy” and are “more likely to drown,” while the white man’s burden will weigh down the last team with “guilt over the fact that they run things.”
Survivor: Cook Island is scheduled to air starting September 14, 2006