Roots, Snoop Dogg, and Unpaid Labor
The new miniseries Roots has caused quite a stir. An interesting “debate” on the subject appears in the New York Times The Opinion Pages ROOM for DEBATE section for June 7, 2016 (http://nyti.ms/25NZ1Hy). Two historians and two journalists offer very different views. The views range from how history can help us to roles for Black actors to Roots as a cop out to fixing the injustices. And no less a personage than the rapper Snoop Dogg joins the conversation with a call to boycott the show. His view? It is like the shows Underground and 12 Years a Slave. It is yet another example of Hollywood “showing the abuse we took hundreds and hundreds of years ago, rather than “how we live and how we inspire people today.” To put it mildly he’s “tired of this ----!”
So what might he (and others I’ve heard from) be so tired of? The producers have made every effort to display the heroic struggles of slaves. The creators of the show did not want to portray the enslaved characters as downtrodden victims. Could it just be that the shame that these narratives make Black people feel just tires them out? Could it just be that the guilt that these narratives make White people feel just tires them out? Could it just be that the false historic narrative about slavery in America that only focuses on victimhood (the impact of the nation on the slave) just tires everyone out? Could it just be that the fresh air of the truth about the history of slavery in America might give everyone a place to rest?
And what is that truth? An entire aspect of the history of slavery in America is missing. As far as most people are concerned it might as well not exist. The history is actually known. It is locked up in books written by historians who have been educated at our country’s best colleges and universities. It is written at a level that most people can’t read. It deals with the impact of the slave on the nation. At Unpaid Labor we call it Contribution. And what does it say? It says that the contribution of the first 12 generations of Americans of African descent was indispensable to the United States of America becoming the most successful nation in the world in modern history.
That story won’t make you tired. That story will answer your questions. That story completes the puzzle. That story inspires honor, hope, dignity, and standing. No shame. No guilt. No ----!