Monday, June 6, 2016

EXTRA: Is new Roots worth our time

The entertainer Snoop Dogg (or by whatever name he goes by these days) brings up an intriguing point – is the remake of “Roots” (that 1970s television sensation) harmful to the black experience in this country.

Should we be forcing people to focus on the modern-day reality of black people in successful roles, rather than remembering the days when black people were little more than livestock?

AS SNOOP DOGG put it, having a new version of “Roots” airing on television last week to great acclaim merely “show(ed) the abuse we took hundreds and hundreds of years ago” rather than “how we live and how we inspire people today.”

I might be inclined to agree with that sentiment, if not for the fact that one of the flaws of our society is that we have never truly acknowledged our past sins in trying to regard black people as less than people.

While I don’t doubt it possible for some twisted souls to view something like “Roots” and see it as a story of the way things used to be in the “good ol’ days” (the same people who think they’re making a profound statement wearing those “Make America Great Again” caps that Donald Trump spouts), perhaps we need an honest accounting of what once was before we can move forward as a society.

Even if it merely adds a perspective as to why many black people have grievances, complaints and concerns that they just can’t let go of.

AS FOR THE new “Roots,” I saw pieces of it – largely because I was engaged in a move that took up much of my week. Watching anything on television was a low priority.

And by the time the A&E channel got around to rerunning the episodes last weekend, I wasn’t in the mood to binge-watch anything.

Of the bits I did see, I can appreciate how additional facts were added (I didn’t realize ‘Kunta Kinte’ was an aspiring university student before being captured and turned into manual labor for life). Although I don’t expect this new version could ever have the emotional impact of the original.

Which I still remember airing back when I was in junior high school (and which I binge-watched about three months ago on one particularly dismal weekend when I had little else to do).

I STILL REMEMBER the sense of everybody I knew catching the latest episode the evening before – and the commentary from those people who complained about having to confront the horrors of slavery.

They’re the ones who claimed it was all so exaggerated. They’re probably the ones who would rant and rage the most these days – if they’re still alive (maybe it’s their kids who will complain the loudest).

Because I also have a “junior high” memory of people getting all worked up and excited over the network broadcast of the film “Car Wash.” Perhaps all that shuckin’ and jivin’ from black people (it was the mid-1970s) is what some would rather see.

Maybe we need the constant reminder of what once was, and which a few people may fantasize about someday becoming real yet again.


EDITOR’S NOTE: One impression I gained from rewatching the old “Roots” a few months ago was amazement at how many black actors got work as a result – all of the cameo appearances. O.J. Simpson pre-criminal trial and Todd Bridges (pre Willis Jackson) are the two that particularly stand out in my mind.

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