Survivor, Colton Cumbie, and the World's Perception of America's Racist Snobbery
March 8, 2012 by Paul McKeever
It was a disturbing reverberation from the dark attitudes of the early 1960s. On CBS’s long-running show “Survivor”, a contestant by the name of Colton Cumbie stood up at “tribal council” to let us all know that there remains a southern U.S. sub-population of people who think that their genetics and their inherited wealth make them better than those who work hard to pursue their happiness.
Let me explain the context, for those who haven’t watched Survivor. In Survivor, contestants are added to one of two teams. The two teams compete in various athletic or intellectual tasks. In some tasks, the winning team wins “immunity” from “tribal council”, which occurs once per episode. The team attending tribal council votes-off one of their number, weakening their team. Eventually, the teams merge, making all contestants teamless. The contestants then compete for “individual immunity”. One person survives the votes at the remaining tribal councils to win the million dollar final prize.
In this season of Survivor, contestants were initially grouped into a women’s team, and a men’s team. Tonight, the men’s team won the immunity challenge, which should have spared them from attending tribal council. Instead, Colton – a gay Alabama “white” man of inherited or family wealth who inexplicably has a hate on for Bill Posley, a “black” comedian – agitated to have the men voluntarily attend tribal council instead of the women. He wanted Bill voted out of the game so badly that he was willing to weaken his own team’s chances of winning.
In past episodes this season, Colton has quietly approached the women’s team, expressing a loyalty to the women and a disloyalty to the men. It didn’t take long for the women to snub Colton. Seeing that his attempts to chum up with the women were failing, he began working mischief within the men’s team.
For whatever reason, the men have since come to see Colton as someone who should be followed lest they personally be targeted for expulsion. As a result, another male player named Tarzan agitated for the men to follow Colton’s proposal and go voluntarily to tribal council instead of the women (Tarzan wanted to vote-off yet another player, ironically for having been disloyal to the men’s team…it apparently didn’t strike Tarzan as obvious that voluntarily submitting the men’s team to tribal council was itself an act of disloyalty to the men’s team). The women, understandably, were amazed at the stupidity of the men’s team, but were only too happy to let them commit suicide.
At the tribal council, host Jeff Probst – astounded at the first-time-ever stupidity of a team voluntarily attending tribal council after winning immunity – asked Colton if there was someone on the men’s team that he did not like. Probst got the answer he expected: Bill. Probst asked why. Colton replied something to the effect of “Comedian? Get a real job” and “Have a plan B”. He was happy to see Bill’s “broke ass” sent home. Probst asked Colton the question that needed to be asked: whether or not Colton knew any “black” people. Yes, Colton replied: his family’s house servant. He said this with a proud smile and a bit of a laugh, indicating he knew the implication of his statement. He then offered lamely that the servant was like family. Tarzan cringed…yet somehow had the gall to simultaneously reject racism and…defend Colton’s statements. It was unbelievable (NOTE: just some of Colton’s and Bill’s tribal council exchange can be viewed here).
Now, look. I don’t, know either of these men – Bill and Colton – personally. I understand that show editors can spice things up by dropping inches of film that provide context. But I find it very hard to believe – given the utter malice and contempt in Colton’s words about Bill – to believe that Colton’s absolutely disgusting appearance on the show tonight was the result of mischievous editing.
A man like Bill who says he works hard to pursue his values – who, for example, pursues his happiness through efforts to build a career in comedy – is not for that reason rightly ridiculed. To the contrary, Bill – who says he comes from a poor family – should be admired for pursuing his own happiness by rational means.
I don’t care whether one is a bland mainstream heterosexual male, or an over-the-top flamboyant gay man. Neither is an excuse for being a repulsive racist.
Colton Cumbie: even though your views are shared by a tiny minority of stuck-up, snobby, lazy, pretentious racists in America, you are everything that the world rightly hates about your country. You unjustly lower the United States of America. You lower men. You lower people who look like you. You lower homosexuals. Your country’s people, of all genetic make-ups, professions, and incomes, not only are better than you: they deserve better than you. And so does Survivor. You shame your country, and you should be ashamed of yourself.
Here’s hoping you get voted off at the next tribal council, you destructive, worthless, cancerous, weasel.