A Deeper Look at ROOTS

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First and foremost, I commend everyone involved in this project for taking on the task of remaking such an iconic movie, especially in a world where everyone is a critic, but no one is a creator.

I can remember watching Roots on television when I was little girl.  I think I was too young at the time to understand the significance of it, but I watched bits and pieces of it anyway.

When I was 18, I graduated high school and decided to take a year off to explore and decide what I wanted to do with my life (I’m still undecided).  During that year, I spent a lot of time doing things I’d never done (both good and bad) and I lost myself a little.  It was when I moved from New York that I watched Roots again.  I was staying with my uncle in D.C. for a week, and he had the series.  I put it on the big screen in the living room and watched it all at once.  I don’t even remember getting up to eat or to go to the bathroom.  I was old enough to “get” what was going on.  I was old enough to realize that life in 2002 was a whole lot better than life in 1742.  I was old enough to realize that, even though I was still unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, I had to do something.  Wasting it wasn’t an option.  That’s when I made the decision to go to college.

Fast-forward 14 years, and here I am, at a completely different point in my life, watching a completely different interpretation of the movie that sparked my revolution.

On Monday, Snoop Dogg took to social media and went on a rant about the remake in an Instagram video (which went viral), saying, “I’m sick of this.  How the…they gonna put Roots on Memorial Day? They just going to keep beating that…into our heads as to how they did us, huh?”

I’m left to wonder…who is this “us” he is referring to?  I didn’t know he lived back then.  Maybe “our” people would have been the best pronoun.

When the (African-American) director, Will Packer, was asked to respond to Snoop Doggs’ rant, here is what he had to say:

“I just think the irony of having him saying and using the n-word, saying, ‘A real n-word like me wouldn’t watch this.’ I couldn’t help but think there’s a ghost of some horrendous slave owner that is smiling and smirking as he watches this black man say that and call himself that …I think that slave owner probably said, ‘Preach. I agree.'”

I would be inclined to side with Packer.

Some people would argue that making (or remaking) movies like this is the “white man’s” way of making us remember where we came from.  I would counter that not teaching our young African-American sons and daughters this in school and at home is their way of trying to make us forget.  And I would think that throwing around the word nigger, the word they used as a derogatory term to describe us for centuries, is how we continue to enslave ourselves.

We never let ourselves forget that we’re niggers.  When I hear students calling each other that (both Black and Hispanic, why, Hispanics, why????) I cringe.  I’m serious.  I physically cringe each and every time.  Taking off the -er and adding an -a isn’t better.  Saying that we’re going to take the word back by using it is completely and utterly ignorant.  That’s like calling yourself fat just because everyone else does.

But, besides that, his statement about them beating it into our heads makes me want to just scratch mine.  Slavery is a stain on America.  It makes them look bad.  Other countries point to the period of slavery in this country as its greatest moment of weakness and disfunction.  Don’t you think slavery would be something “they” would want us to forget?

I mean, really.  Imagine for a minute that you did something really bad to people.  Perhaps you physically assaulted them, or robbed them, or harmed them in some way.  Then, years later, you turned your life around and began to try and make amends for the wrongs you’ve done, although you know it’s impossible to fully make amends.  Wouldn’t you want everyone to forget and/or never know that side of you?  Would you walk into a room and introduce yourself like, “Hi, my name is Bill and I robbed five people at gunpoint.”?

Of course not.

You want to forget it, you want your victims to forget you, and you want everyone to move on like it never even happened.

When I first got into education, during Black History Month, the school would announce a little known Black History fact over the morning announcements each day.  It would culminate with a play or talent showcase surrounding Black inventors, scientists, entrepreneurs, etc.   This school had a minority population of less than 5%.

When I went to another school with a much larger population of African-American students (try 30%), guess what they did during Black History Month?  Nothing!  Not one announcement.  Not one poster.  Not one lesson.   Nada.  As a math teacher, I took it upon myself to create a math project that allowed my students to research and learn more about African-American mathematicians.

I say that to say this…when we forget, push it to the back of our minds, don’t teach it to our children, pretend like it never happened, that’s when we become doomed to repeat our mistakes.

Imagine how much we could learn about loyalty, love, brotherhood, teamwork, etc., from the examples of our ancestors.  About survival.  About taking nothing and turning it into something.  About real struggle.  About family.

These are the lessons we learn from movies like this.

And while the show is graphic, the graphic and violent nature sheds light on how graphic and violent the acts were.  To not depict each scene candidly would be to do an injustice to the brutal act of slavery.  While my son is too young now to understand the brutalities of slavery, as he grows, I am going to teach him our rich heritage.  I am going to search our genealogy and find out more about our people.  I am going to teach him the history that everyone wants us to forget.  I am going to raise a conscious, aware, and awake Black man.

Let’s all hope that more parents have the mindset of Will Packer and not Snoop Dogg when it comes to this issue.  But, we wish you well on the Tupac biopic.  We’re sure that’s going to do so much more for the Black community than Roots.

 

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