Boycotting movies about slavery?

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

There have been a few African Americans voicing their disapproval of movies about slavery. They claim that they find such movies defensive and obsolete in present times. They feel African Americans would be better served showing more movies depicting Blacks being as more progressive and in a positive light. One example voicing discontent is Snoop Dog, a rapper who recently stated he was tired of movies about slavery and was boycotting the new TV version of Roots.

Being an older African American, I find such statements bordering on arrogance, ignorance and disrespect for the pain and suffering endured by our ancestors. The toil and suffering of slaves are engrained in every fiber of what we acknowledge as the most powerful and respected country in the world. However as African Americans we have yet to be given the economical, social, and political justice and benefits so prevalent among the dominant race in our country.

Don’t let a handful of Blacks adhering to the practices of those who secretly abhor them tell other Blacks that we have arrived and the past does not matter.

Knowing your history, however uncomfortable and horrendous it may be, does not give a handful of self-proclaimed novices of Black history the right to slight or downplay the reality that took place. To advocate for others (especially other Blacks) to refrain from learning about their tumultuous history here in America is irresponsible, selfish, and detrimental to our younger generation. Being uncomfortable and dissatisfied about history does not give one the right to deny others the truth of what took place.

Truly knowing your history helps you dissect the reality that encompasses African Americans today. Often our dire socioeconomic shortcomings are not so much our own making, but are a well contrived plan by the dominant White society to keep us relegated to second class status. As long as we continue to look through the rose tinted glasses provided us by some of our deceivers, we will continue to stay in the dark oblivious to the truth—thus the accepting status quo.

Regardless of how you may feel about slavery in America and its practice, it should be a learning tool to show our resilience as a people. No one can tell us of our relevancy in making this country great. We cannot afford to let the efforts of our ancestors be ignored and diluted to appease the conscious of the offspring of those who indulged in practicing the heinous acts of slavery here in America. The free labor of slaves and the pervasive acts by our oppressors to keep slaves and their children from enjoying the fruits of their labor while they accrued incredible wealth have rippling effects even today. The wealth accrued from the free labor of slavery continues to be inherited and enjoyed through the heirs of former slave owners.

Some Blacks who have achieved a comfortable position of wealth and notoriety don’t care to hear about slavery, because they find it offensive and degrading. To each his own, but those who fail to acknowledge and learn from slavery are contributing to the whims of those who say that slavery is over, so ‘get a life’ and move on. It is so natural and convenient for those reaping the benefits of slavery to dismiss the sins of their forefathers. The inability of future generations to acknowledge and correct the disparities generated from centuries of slavery contributes to the racial tension so prevalent in our nation.

History may be painful and uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t promote a need to provoke violence or retaliatory actions. It should serve as a learning tool so that heinous and irreparable events should never be repeated or down played.

The Jews don’t ever want the world to forget the horrendous annihilation of six million Jews during the Holocaust. Letting the world forget is not an option for them, so why should African Americans feel any different? ‘Never again’ should be our mantra concerning our past history, if for nothing more than a reminder for America to correct its wrongs.

I find it saddening as well as frightening that some Blacks selfishly advocate against others who see and learn from movies they deem uncomfortable, even though the movies have a propensity to be crucial learning tools, especially in helping Blacks understand their present situation. All too often the profound difference of some views acts as a reminder that the older generation has a greater disconnect to our younger adults than we realize.

We, as Black adults, should take responsibility in failing our children by trying to protect them from the horrors and remnants of the past still permeating their daily lives. Our knowledge of slavery should make us stronger and more determined to seek compensation to equal the playing field. The hardest part was already endured by our ancestors. All we have to do is learn from the experiences of those ‘long gone’ for us to go forward. Forgetting is not an option.