Is 'Southland' a Racist TV Show?

TNT

When the gritty cop drama, Southland, premiered on NBC in the spring of 2009, Alex Nogales, President of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, spoke out against the show. ”All of the criminals are Latino and all the cops are white. That is offensive,” Nogales told Latina in the fall of 2009. He rightly pointed out that while 42% of the Los Angeles Police Department is Latino, the show wasn't portraying that on screen. "To have that number and have a show without a single identifiably Latino cop is a big problem."

A few months later, NBC canceled the show right before the premiere of its second season, and Southland found a new home at TNT. Unfortunately, despite its move to a new network, Southland has continued its trend of portraying Blacks and Latinos as dangerous, ruthless criminals. 

In last night's episode, "Punching Water," the show cast Latinos and Blacks as dangerous criminals once again, to tell the story of two rival gangbangers who kill each other (and a 4-year-old black boy). There were also a few subplots; one was about ignorant mariachis who didn't understand that only a few of them could ride in a car (they had about 11 people in a car that fit only 7); and another about an insane Latino man who thought a blow-up doll was his real-life wife. The worst part of the episode came at the very end, when a white officer says that the 4-year-old black boy who died at the hands of gang violence deserved to die. Regina King's character, Lydia Adams, the only African American main character on the show, punches the man after he says that and we can't say we blame her. 

Given that Latinos only account for about 4 percent of on-camera talent on television (though we make up 14 percent of the U.S. population and growing), it seems irresponsible on the part of Southland's writers to produce these kinds of unbalanced episodes where Latinos and Blacks are only portrayed as criminals. But we'd like to hear from you: Do you think Southland has taken stereotypes about Latino criminals and thugs too far?

 

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