August 24, 2006
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Surviving racism
By -- Calgary Sun

Get ready for a segregated Survivor.

Race will matter on the upcoming season of the CBS show as contestants will be divided into four tribes of five people by ethnicity -- blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians.

The announcement was made on CBS' Early Show yesterday.

Survivor: Cook Island host Jeff Probst says the idea "actually came from the criticism Survivor was not ethnically diverse enough."

He says the twist fits in perfectly with what Survivor does, saying the show is "a social experiment. And this is adding another layer to that experiment."

Probst calls the new twist "one of the freshest ideas" Survivor has had in years, but admits the contestants had mixed reactions to the racial divisions. They were not told until they arrived.

"Yul (Kwon) wasn't sure. Yul was concerned we were going to turn this into something that would show stereotypes and reinforce them," Probst told the Early Show.

"On the other hand, you have people like Rebecca (Borman), who said, 'I don't really care how you divide it because I know that I need a certain amount of people to be on my side to help me get through this.' "

Probst says dividing the tribes by race is not meant to promote segregation, but to encourage the different cultures to mix.

"Ultimately, to win this game, you're voting people out that are then on the jury that have to come back and vote for you. So, the person who wins is actually going to do the best job of merging with all different ethnicities."

Probst, however, does believe the tribal designations will divide the audience.

"I think it's very natural to assume that certain groups are going to have audience members rooting for them simply because they share ethnicity.

"But, at the end of the day, I think it will come down to what it always comes down to -- 'Who do I like?' "

Patrick G. Hunter, communications director for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, says nothing good can come from Survivor's new concept.

"I am at a loss of words. What were they thinking? Are they trying to provoke a kind of a difference between races? I don't get it," he says, adding the popular reality show is playing with fire.

"Let's say the white team comes out on top -- people like the KKK (Ku Klux Klan), for example, will use that as kind of a justification."

Hunter says if the show had cast all the same contestants and then sat back and waited to see if the different races aligned, that would be an interesting social experiment.

However, by deliberately separating them at the start of the game, he says it will only encourage people at home to cheer against players based solely on the colour of their skin.

"I think the response to it will be along racial lines and it may generate (racism)," he adds.

The new season of Survivor debuts on CBS Sept. 14.

(With files from AP)

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