Monday, January 31, 2011

Where is the Kenyan Crocodile Hunter?

My husband is a nature buff. His love of all things fishy, feathered or furry is one of his endearing traits. I don't know how a dude from Jersey came to have the tracking skills of an 1800s-era Montana homesteader, but we often have conversations like this, while driving down some highway:
Husband: Look at that!
Tami: (Glancing up from playing Tower Madness on iPhone) Wha?
Husband: That hawk back there in that tree. 
Tami: Hmm...
Husband: (Shares elaborate description of hawk.) You didn't see that? (incredulously)
Tami: Uh...
Or, we'll be curled on the couch watching some nature show:
Husband: Ah, that's a Speckled Western Booby Cat. They're know for their love of honky tonk music and Red Vine candies.
Program announcer: And here we have a Speckled Western Booby Cat, displaying common traits of the species. This little fella is dancing to Jelly Roll Morton and eating Red Vines.
Husband: Told ya.
And so it is curious to me--a woman who loves a black man who loves nature--how noticeably absent people of color are from most televised nature programs.

This struck me over the weekend after spending a few hours watching National Geographic programming with Mr. What Tami Said. The lack of diversity is particularly evident to me when the focus is on animals indigenous to places with majority brown or black populations. The predominate view of most nature programs seems to be that of the colonizer. Program after program focuses on white American or European scientists and tourist relationships with animals. We are asked to relate to (white) explorers as they push into a remote wilderness in some dark and "uncivilized" spot. We are to thrill at their knowledge of "exotic" animals and their proximity to dangerous beasts. We watch as they "discover" and "conquer" nature.


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