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History Not Obliged To Make You Feel Good

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History Not Obliged To Make You Feel Good

Roots still

Dear Snoop Dogg:

You could have been honest about it. If you had, I’d still think you wrong as two left shoes, but at least I could give you points for guts.

As it is, I can only shake my head in appalled wonder at your entirely gutless Instagram attack on the remake of “Roots” that aired last week on the A&E Networks. You called for a boycott, saying, “They just want to keep showing the abuse that we took hundreds and hundreds of years ago. . . . When you all going to make a (expletive) series about the success that black folks is having? The only success we have is ‘Roots’ and ’12 Years a Slave’?”

Thus spoke the star of “Soul Plane.” And it raises a simple question: Negro, are you out your d–n mind?

Allow me to share some Wikipedia research. No, that’s not a definitive source, but the results were still persuasive. Know how many productions — TV, feature film and documentaries — about the 246-year epoch of American slavery I was able to identify? Forty-six. That’s since “Birth of a Nation” in 1915. By contrast, I found 136 American productions about the 12 years of the Holocaust, which ended in 1945.

Somehow, I have never once heard the complaint that there are too many Holocaust movies being made. And it is simply inconceivable to me that a Jewish entertainer would say something so asinine.

Yet, here you are complaining about too many slave films. Not that you’re alone. Every time some film or TV program dares recount this grim history, I hear some white people argue that telling these stories is “divisive” and even “racist.” “‘Roots’ is depressing,” writes columnist Cal Thomas.

Well, boo-hoo.

Few people ever really tell the truth, ever admit the real reason they say such things. People like Thomas do not admit they fear feeling blame and guilt at seeing what ancestors did. People like you do not admit they fear feeling shame and fury at seeing what ancestors suffered.

I learned long ago that white guilt is about the most useless emotion there is. Anything that makes you feel guilty, you will eventually resent and react against. So I don’t need or want white people’s guilt. I’d be happy to make do with their acknowledgment of historical and present-day reality and maybe a little simple human compassion.

As to black folks’ shame and fury, well, I can’t imagine it’s a barrel of laughs for a Jew to watch “Schindler’s List,” either. Admittedly, a Jew doesn’t walk out of that movie and rub shoulders with the heirs of Nazi Germany while you and I do live side by side with the heirs of antebellum (and Jim Crow) America. In that sense, at least, ours is the heavier emotional burden.

Still, I think Jews, by and large, understand something that escapes people like you and Thomas: History is not obliged to make you feel good. Its job is to tell you who you are and where you came from so you can pass that down to your children, and maybe anchor them in identity — and purpose — beyond that imparted to them by the video channel.

I suspect Jews also understand that if you don’t tell your story, others will, and in the end, you won’t recognize it. A docent on a Southern plantation recently wrote of white visitors asking if slaves got paid for their work, signed up for jobs they wanted, or “appreciated” how well cared-for they were. It’s safe to say none of them were ever “depressed” by “Roots.”

It’s a funny thing, Snoop. Back when rappers like you were being condemned for your profane tales of street life, you defended yourselves by arguing that you were simply reporting the truth of urban America. This was real, you said, and you challenged critics to deal with it.

So it’s ironic, a quarter-century later, to find you whining about “Roots.” You want real? Brother, this is as real as it gets. And it turns out the one who can’t deal with it is you.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)


Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. Paul Bass June 5, 2016

    History is written by the victors, but in this case, a few were black.

    And the racists and Dixiecrats have been trying to put that genie back in the bottle ever since. It’s a shame Snoop is supporting these fools.

    1. charleo1 June 5, 2016

      In Snoop-Dog’s case, make that a bag of marijuana he’s trying to stick the genie back in. But, whoever accused Snoop of being a scholar of American History? I think the more compelling case for boycotting A&E, would be for not pulling the insultingly tasteless/ignorant, Duck Dynasty series. Where an openly racists Phil Robertson, the Louisiana born Patriarch of a clan of bearded hillbilly, “duck hunters,” opined in a magazine interview several years ago that, “Black’s were better off, and happier, down on the plantation.” To A&E’s credit, they did pull the series after the article came out. Until a massive number of assorted sh!tkickers, who actually agree with Robertson, rose up in enraged protest, and the channel relented. Now millions of African Americans aware of Robertson’s overt racism, along with the millions who approve of it. Are reminded every time they walk into Walmart. As they are subjected to entire isles of the show’s garish paraphernalia. Selling everything from calendars, and coffee cups, to tees, and trousers.

      1. plc97477 June 5, 2016

        Or we could not thank walmart for supporting that racist world view by not shopping there.

        1. The lucky one June 5, 2016

          Agreed. I have never shopped at Walmart for a variety of reasons not the least of which is that the Walton family are such a bunch of classless a-holes, much like the Trumps.

        2. charleo1 June 5, 2016

          Agreed, I stay away from WM like the plague. But, then there’s K-Mart, Target, and every truck stop from here to CA. But the fact is, there are more meaningful, and lower hanging fruit to pick in this than Duck Dynasty. I have thought for years of how wrong it is to continue to have a Civil Rights landmark, the bridge at Selma AL. to carry the name of Confederate Brigadier General. (Edmund Pettus.) To my thinking, it’s as thoughtless, and deeply disrespectful, as would be naming a street leading to the Holocaust Museum in Berlin, Heinrich Himmler Boulevard. And we can’t even fix that, due to the fact it’s legally a State issue.

        3. Jane June 5, 2016

          walmart did not write roots, Alex Haley did. its a story not a racist view. are you saying because people like to be informed they are racist. if so that’s not so. People who do holocaust movies are racist. Grow up.

      2. latebloomingrandma June 6, 2016

        This is another one of those sick side effects that a free society has to tolerate. Unless people push back on the sickness. Such as the success in “flushing Rush”.

  2. j_verria June 5, 2016

    I’m disappointed by Snoop’s take but it IS his right. That said, even now the privileged are trying to re-write the history books to downplay slavery. They want to show that the civil war was not about slavery, it was about “states rights”. In a sense they are correct but the state right they are being so disingenuous about was “the right to own slaves”! Those who refuse to learn from the past are destined to repeat the same mistakes, paraphrasing, of course. So if you let others tell your story, by the time it gets back around to you, you’re wondering who they are talking about.

    1. Jane June 5, 2016

      Your so right. We need to know the past to prevent it from ever happening again.Plus it was a good story, I watched both roots. and to me worth watching for historical reasons. A reminder of how cruel people can really be to each other.

    2. FireBaron June 6, 2016

      Oh, j, it WAS about States Rights. It was all about their Right to put their Right to be Slave Owners the articles in their letters of secession from the Union!

  3. Otto T. Goat June 5, 2016

    Leontard thinks a dumb TV show he watched is “history”.

    1. Daniel Jones June 5, 2016

      You are an idiot. His name is Leonard, and you are still just an Autogrief.

    2. Jane June 5, 2016

      it is a historical story of generations. nothing dumb about roots. it is educating too. People need to never forget these things that happened and make sure they stay in the past.

    3. FireBaron June 6, 2016

      Otto, I will assume you are illiterate as hell. “Roots” is based on the book of the same name by the late author, Alex Haley. This told an account of his ancestors starting from Kunta, based on letters, diaries and historical records. Yes, the dialog is presumably made up. So what? This is a personal family history. You don’t like it? Too bad. That’s your problem, not mine.
      Your sophomoric attempts at racial humor and commentary show you for the sad little man that you are. Maybe one of these days your mommy will take you to a doctor who can successfully perform the rectocraniotomy that you are in so desperate need of, and you can move out of her basement, get a real job, and become an actual productive member of society instead of the sad Troll you try to be.

      1. Otto T. Goat June 6, 2016

        Haley fabricated his family history and plagiarized the novel The African, by Harold Courlander, a white man.

    4. pisces63 June 6, 2016

      It is history and not a TV show. It is the documented history of Alex Haley. 12 years a Slave is the autobiography of a free black man kidnapped into slavery. NOT a TV show. Shows your ignorance, more and more.

      1. Otto T. Goat June 6, 2016

        Alex Haley’s “autobiography” was mostly fiction and was partially plagiarized from a novel written by a white man.

        1. pisces63 June 6, 2016

          He labeled it FACTION. As for the lying white man? Did not believe him then and don’t now and just emphasized it for me.

          1. Otto T. Goat June 6, 2016

            Haley admitted to the plagiarism and paid Courlander $650,000.

          2. pisces63 June 6, 2016

            I lived through it. I have an autographed copy of Roots. Another white man whose works did not live up to the black man’s. monetarily or otherwise. His works were on Haiti and NOT Africa and America. His settling does not make it true, either. Alex found his family. He found nothing.

          3. Otto T. Goat June 6, 2016

            You have an autographed copy of Roots, which proves Haley didn’t steal parts of a white man’s novel and insert them in what he claimed to be his family history. That’s hilarious.

          4. pisces63 June 6, 2016

            No dummy. I just wrote I have an autographed copy, one of Malcolm X, too. You are hilarious. I didn’t believe him then, when it came out and I do not now. No matter a settlement. Not when it comes to white folks and us. Considering you can this description of the slave ships in any number of places and has been shown on any number of programs, including Prof. Gates programs on the middle passage. Not buying it. I never read one piece of the gentleman’s works but even I know of the horrors of the middle passage.

          5. pisces63 June 6, 2016

            Also have an autographed copy of his Malcolm X. Have pictures of the family home in Henning, Tenn., too. As they refurbished it and afterwards. Bet the white man didn’t!!

          6. Otto T. Goat June 6, 2016

            Does the Autobiography of Malcolm X discuss his work as a gay prostitute? I’ve never read it.

          7. pisces63 June 6, 2016

            You really have a problem, don’t you. Only read it from one in the closet, demented, white man, you. I’ve read it twice since my college days. Yet, then again, I can read.

          8. Otto T. Goat June 6, 2016

            You didn’t answer the question.

          9. pisces63 June 6, 2016

            I just could not for the life of me dignify you with an answer. Not in this life. He lived through a lot and did a lot, no question about that but now you hit a level low enough for satyrs. The very much despised of the ancient Greek’s mythology. Goats.

    1. pisces63 June 6, 2016

      YOu imbecile. I remember Kent State. I live in Ohio and at 67 there was no rap at all. I am so sick of bigoted idiots like you. I am black!!

      1. Otto T. Goat June 6, 2016

        It must have been hard growing up with no rap.

        1. pisces63 June 6, 2016

          Why? I had Motown. The Stones. Beatles. Really? Otis Rein Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, O’Jays, Sinatra!! You really have no brain, do you?

  4. Jane June 5, 2016

    I watched the new roots, thought it was a good remake, I liked it better than the first , new technology added to it.Good actors. IT doesn’t hurt to face the past, but I DO think we also need to do more positive movies on what many blacks have accomplished and overcome. many immigrants come here and do a lot of good for America. we also need those stories. my husbands heart surgeon came here at age 14 from Africa, no money no birth certificate and ended up going thru Harvard and speaks several languages, Does surgeries world wide and its a secret, I’d like to hear those stories too, we can do both.

  5. Guadalupe2136 June 6, 2016

    I basically get paid about $6,000-$8,000 /month with an online job. For those of you who are ready to work easy freelance work for 2-5 hours a day from your living room and earn good income while doing it… This is an opportunity for you… http://ur1.


  6. RED June 6, 2016

    I watched the new Roots this weekend. And although I had already reached this conclusion prior to watching it, it did help to solidify in mind that anyone I hear selling the “slavery wasn’t so bad” or “the states rights” garbage deserves to slapped across the face with all the voracity required for someone so deeply ignorant and lacking of a human soul.

    1. latebloomingrandma June 6, 2016

      I found it so difficult to watch. I can’t say I felt guilty, but profound shame for our country that this happened in our past. Humans are capable of such cruelty. I think in the year 2016, while we still have problems surrounding race and ethnicity, we as a people are horrified and do not want to put up with cruelty such as this anymore. That’s progress in many ways.

      1. iamproteus June 6, 2016

        “Humans are capable of such cruelty.”
        So true! And “black slavery” is just a small part of that truth. While there are many other examples to be cited, consider the plight of the American Indians. How many movies have you seen that tell of the cruelty shown to the Cherokee Nation that thrived in the south; how they were rounded up and marched to the Oklahoma territory and dumped in a strange land and given rancid meat and disease ridden blankets. Untold numbers died on “The Trail of Tears” and many more after they were left to die of starvation and gross mistreatment at the hands of government managers. Again, this is but one example. On the march to the 21st century, the U.S.has committed atrocities against all the tribes/nations that inhabited North America for centuries prior to the arrival of European immigrants. Our history is littered with examples of land theft, denigration and wholesale murder; entire tribes slaughtered….wiped away from the pages of history. There are so many things to rue in the rear-view mirror of history, so many mistakes to learn from….if only we would take those lessons to heart.

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