Samoans in the NFL: How Mainstream Media Hurts our Community
Long Beach, CA - On Sunday, Jan 17, in the height of the NFL Playoffs, 60 Minutes, a CBS evening news show, aired a segment titled "American Samoa: a football island."
Reporting from American Samoa, 60 Minutes news correspondent Scott Pelley profiled American Samoans, current and past high school football stars, to include the famous Pittsburg Steelers safety, Troy Polomalu. Throughout the segment, Pelley used the growing number of Samoan athletes in the NFL to surmise an argument favoring a Samoan boy over any other "American" boy by an estimated 56%.
This speculation presupposes that Samoan boys born in American Samoa are not American, in spite of their status as U.S. nationals; it also purports a highly divisive narrative against Samoans in the NFL and in general. Pelley employs rather bland centrist tactics by attempting to profile the Samoan race as a biological framework for football players. He points out every obvious disadvantage he could muster against a people from impoverished communities on a small island and further describes young Samoan athletes as having some kind of physiological advantage.
“You’re all born big,” says Pelley to Governor of American Samoa Togiola Tulafono as he parades the Governor down a nostalgic display of autographed football memorabilia from Samoan players and their teams. Pelley is just short of an anthropological explanation, akin to that of Margaret Mead ‘s exploitation of Samoans, creating the conspiracy of a “Samoan advantage” with scenes of boys climbing coconut trees (a depiction of monkeys) and using machetes for household chores, a plausible image of a violent people, and pacifying any resistance with a tear-jerking conclusion on Samoans having a lot of ‘heart.’
Again, I note how Pelley’s narrative perpetuates racial stereotypes and divide.
What is most disturbing about this 60 Minutes segment isn’t so much the perpetual nature of subliminal hate messages against Samoans woven throughout a picturesque paradise disguise, nor is it Pelley’s incompetent reporting of American Samoa--in which he noted, ”The only US possession south of the Equator," though other U.S. territories exist such as Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, of which there are many islands and atolls that the U.S. occupies as military testing grounds in the Pacific. Rather, it’s the audacity of this privileged white male, having no indigenous context to report on an immigrant population such as Samoan Americans, insult the contributions of their forefathers and demoralize the importance of the continued struggle for inclusion.
Mainstream media conglomerates, such as 60 Minutes, often make themselves off to be ‘watchdogs of democracy’ reporting on issues of social importance, and unveiling universal truth. In fact, these are often misguided by media owners inserting their exclusive biases, and more often than not, these news sources are becoming more dangerous for our communities than the obviouslu right-winged Fox News Channel.
At least Fox doesn’t come in sheep’s clothing.
While media moguls serve as lapdogs of plutocracy and protect the interest of their politico-economic elite; we continue to support their venom by watching their version of public airwaves. It’s time we stand up against media threats directed against our communities, and hold the Scott Pelleys of the industry accountable through media uprising.
It seems almost anecdotal in 2010 to have handy the ‘serenity prayer’ for these situations, but I’m afraid it’s going to take more than prayer, and more than 60 minutes of our lifetime to admonish this injustice. With that said, my new resolve is to have the serenity to persevere, the courage to unite our voices and the wisdom to create our own programming content inclusive of community, equality, shared responsibility, opportunity, justice and human rights for all people, not just the few.