Why boycotting “Roots” won’t heal the black community


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There has been a lot of discussion and controversy surrounding the remake of Alex Haley’s miniseries, “Roots,” which portrays the harsh reality of American history. The rapper Snoop Dog took to Instagram on Monday to share his disapproval along with many others that feel this time period should be forgotten or at the very least, not glamorized by Hollywood. First, let me say that there is nothing glamorous about slavery, at all. It is truly an ugly part of this country’s dark past and the repercussions still plague the black community to this day, which is why I feel that “Roots” is just as relevant in May of 2016, as it was when it first aired in January of 1977. Even though boycotting the remake may sound like a good idea, it will not solve the deeply layered issues that we continue to go untreated in the black community,such as our lack of unity and willingness to support one another.

Many argue that the film industry has become saturated with films focused solely on slavery, as though that is where our history begins. I know for a fact that our history began thousands of years ago and that we built empires that spread throughout Africa. There is even evidence that our knowledge was shared beyond the motherland and helped to shape other great nations. But that’s a post for another day. What people fail to acknowledge is that “Roots” tells an important story that still holds true today. When I saw the original version as a child, I didn’t have the capacity to comprehend how slaves were not only broken physically, but also mentally and spiritually, which allowed them to be kept in captivity for over 400 years.

In today’s society, it is just as legal for a white man to take the life of a black man, woman, or child, without any fear of repercussions. Officers shoot unarmed teens and get a slap on the wrist in hopes to satisfy the public. But behind closed doors, they get a pat on the back for ridding the world of one more potential danger to their way of life. Our men are still being mentally broken and left incapable of protecting and defending their families. Black women are still being put into positions and situations that leave us feeling as though we can’t depend on anyone but ourselves for survival; only to be labeled in return as too independent.

There is a growing disconnect between black men and black women that hurts us to our very core. The pain shows up in the way we interact with each other in our everyday lives whether in person or on social media. For instance, while at a happy hour last month, I was having a nice conversation with a brother when the conversation took an unexpected turn. We were discussing our professions and I mentioned that I am a writer, with aspirations to use my voice to be a part of the movement to heal the black community and especially the black family. He chuckled and said that my aspirations were admirable but that it would never happen because we have too many issues. Although a part of me agreed with him, his words were still like a slap in the face. Instead of speaking life into my vision to see our relationships healed, and wanting to be a part of the movement, his words created a deeper rift.

He tried to recover the ground he’d lost with me by purchasing a copy of my novel, A Life Less Interrupted, to show that he could in fact support a black woman. However, the damage had already been done and I was too tired to try to get to the root of his problems. Another example would be the series I wrote last year regarding interracial dating, based on a conversation with a friend who has decided to no longer date black women, but fails to see the role he’s played in the failure of his relationships. The list goes on, but I digress.

Slavery is only a fragment of our history, and there are positive representations of our history that deserve to be told. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to not enough of those stories being funded in order to be brought to the big screen. Black people are a force that is not always exerted to create positive change. We can spend hundreds of dollars on concert tickets to see Beyoncé sing about her husband’s possible infidelity, and Black Twitter can invest time and energy into tearing into a woman who claims to be Becky with the good hair without any real confirmation. But I wonder how many of us would pool our resources with the same passion and energy to create a fund geared towards a black owned production company that would tell our history regarding an era other than slavery?

When something makes us uncomfortable, or no longer entertains us, we try to do away with it. But who is to say that a young person who watches the remake of “Roots” won’t be inspired by it to create something even more powerful that will one day change the world? These films are uncomfortable, but they are needed. We need records of the past in hopes not to repeat it.

There are so many other things that hurt us a people that Snoop Dog could have called to boycott. What about the music that encourages that killing of our men, the sexual objectification, and the sell of drugs that destroy our communities? Yes, we were more than just slaves, but if we don’t heal ourselves first, then the world will never allow us to be remembered as anything else. And although I haven’t been on this journey to repair relationships within the black community for very long, I plan to bring as many people with me that want to do the work. Our community needs healing, and it will take more than boycotting movies and shows about slavery for this change to take place. We have to learn how to truly love, respect, and support one another again in order for us to see any progress. We are definitely stronger together than we apart.

At the end of the day, it is your right to watch or not watch the remake of “Roots” or any other slave movie/show ever again. I just hope that you see the bigger picture and do your part to make this world a little bit better, before you leave it.

As always, this is from my heart to yours.

~Ariel

 

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