Indigenous media critic Wente advocates for inclusive, diverse media

Jesse Wente visited Humber to discuss the representations of Indigenous people in media. (Paul Schubert)

Paul Schubert

Arts Reporter

The racial stereotypes of Indigenous peoples are in part reinforced by the lack of diversity in the media, says critic Jesse Wente.

The Ojibwe speaker, who is also a contributor for CBC Radio One’s Metro Morning, said diversity in the media and actively listening are both key in dealing with issues related to Indigenous rights. He highlighted how important it is when dealing with the often-biased portrayal Indigenous peoples.

Wente said that negative representations of Indigenous people in the media unfairly portray them either as “savages” in films or in a ludicrous format in the case of sports mascots.

“If you’re going to run a business, if you’re going to run a school, if you’re going to even exist in this world, it’s probably best to understand that that’s what’s happening,” Wente said.

He explained there are many reasons why society should be diverse and inclusive.

“Look around your world,” Wente said. “It’s inclusive and diverse, isn’t it?”

He said the inequality in Canada and around the world occurs due to a lack of diversity from within the media.

“We only hear some aspects of the story, and not all. This then skews the larger perspectives of these issues and allows inequality to continue,” Wente said.

“The more diversity you have, the more representative you are, and the more attuned you are to your audience,” he said. Wente spoke as part of the President’s Lecture Series at North Campus on Tuesday.

Ian Gerrie, Chair of the President’s Lecture Series since 2004, said it’s important for Humber students to be aware of Indigenous issues.

“I think particularly that at this point in time, and as Jesse Wente pointed out, there is a bit of an awakening in Canada about these issues,” he said. “I think that that has coincided with the Canada 150 celebrations. The sesquicentennial is a time when a lot of people are celebrating, as well as people who are resisting.”

Gerrie said Wente was a good candidate due to his background in media and his knowledge of “cultural appropriation.”

Regina Hartwick, Aboriginal Resource Centre manager, said while Canada has been talking about the missing and murdered Indigenous women, more action needs to take place.

“The fact that it’s being discussed is a step in the right direction. While I would say there has been improvement, I don’t think improvement is enough,” Hartwick said.

Hartwick urges Humber youth to keep the conversations going about Indigenous youth, while learning more about them and the challenges they face.

“There’s more that could and should be done,” Hartwick said.

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