So, last night while channel surfing, I found my self stuck on something I swore to Black Jesus I wouldn’t watch.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Over the last few weeks, thru radio, TV, and the internet I’ve noticed numerous ads for the rebooted show Roots, based off of Alex Haley’s epic novel in 1976 turned mini-series in 1977. First off, I should let it be known that I had zero intention on watching this;
Zilch, nada, none.
For one, it was airing during what ended up being game 7 of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals, which briefly increased the likelihood that I’d never watch it drastically. Secondly, the first Roots miniseries was a magical moment that captured lightning in a bottle and produced many of Black Hollywood’s best and brightest; a who’s who if you will.
This new remake? Not so much. Let’s just say that outside of a couple people, I don’t know none of these niggas. Furthermore, if I’m being honest I’ve been feeling a bit “blacked out” as of late. That’s is a term I use with friends and family in reference to TV and films rehashing the same old stories of black folks. This isn’t the shit that you’re normally able to avoid during Black History Month like Eyes on The Prize or Little Boy King. No sir. We are officially smack dab in the middle of the slave renaissance in cinema. This is guilt, pain and suffering shown all year after it hits the big screen. Movies like D’jango (which I still love) and 12 Years a Slave can be found easily if you peruse cable programming long enough, while shows like Hell on Wheels and Underground are pumped in weekly. Now more than ever, we as American consumers have had to face the tellings of this nations most vile atrocities, watered down as they may be.
Some people are NOT down with feeling that way.
We’ve all heard stories of “white guilt”. The unspoken Caucasian blameworthiness that somehow leads to acolades and awards for movies that emotionally depict the plight of woeful blacks. However, what we haven’t heard too often is the sentiment of “get over it, move past it, its old” from actual black people. It’s pretty damn close to house niggertry if you ask me but i’ll leave it to you for judgement.
In an Instagram post on Monday, rapper Snoop Dogg belted that exact tune when he said of the Roots remake,
“I’m sick of this shit. How the fuck are they going to put Roots on, on Memorial Day?.. They going to just to keep beating that shit into our heads about how they did us, huh?…I ain’t watching that shit, and I advise you motherfuckers as real niggas like myself; fuck them television shows…Let’s create our own shit based on today, how we live and how we inspire people today. Black is what’s real. Fuck that old shit.”
Damn Calvin, it’s like that ?
Real nigga indeed. Maybe slightly coonish but whatevs.
That being said, I understand where Snoop’s coming from. I truly do. Yet understanding is different than agreeing in totality with such dumb shit. Boasting an Imdb resume that lists work such as The Wash, Soul Plane, Bones, and Mac & Devin Go To High School, it’s painfully obvious that Snoop is no Poitier, so I’m not rushing to his defense for on this one. Although, one time I felt almost similar to how he does. I couldn’t stand Roots when I was a kid, not because teachers made us watch it every year, and not because it wasn’t significant, but because it made me uncomfortable. As a child it was difficult to process the feelings I had seeing my people captured, sold into slavery, whipped, maimed and chained. Also, I had no concept of a movie having zero happy endings at that age. That shit was sad as hell, not to mention it’d be on all week during a time when there wasn’t a plethora of other viewing options.
I wasn’t a child who was unaware of slavery, quite the contrary. Since I can remember, there has always been reminders around family members houses that invoked where I came from. My Aunt’s house in South Carolina had a sign over her kitchen door that read ” All unattended children will be sold as slaves”. It was a real sign and was not a joke at all. She told me all of the time about how and why things like that really happened. In spite of that, all of these things never quite made me feel the way Roots did.
Due to the recent rise of movies that feature all things slave related, I’ve been a bit desensitized to the genre overall and that shit is troublesome to me; something about that just doesn’t sit right. Which brings me back to last night. During a commercial time out in the game, I stumbled on the Roots remake and much to my surprise, ended up watching the whole damn thing.
I didn’t say it aloud, nor in my head. It seemed more of a challenge to myself than anything else; just feel something. Be uncomfortable watching this and take something from it.
After two hours I can honestly say I indeed felt something again. Maybe it was the new cast or the big budget set but I felt that same uneasiness, just newer. I sensed the exact same restlessness seeing the effects of generational damge due to the transatlantic slave trade and that shit hurt.
Multi-Platinum recording artist,T.I also makes an appearance during the reboot in future episodes, but his point on the matter is one that I echo. In an interview with Rolling Stone regarding his role and the series’ importance,
“The quest for truth should be a lifelong journey…From the time you’re born to the time you die, you’re supposed to be seeking knowledge and truth. This is a piece of it. This is a huge, huge chapter, so I think it’s incredibly important.”
In the end, I realize that I had to learn these things early to be able to grow up with a certain amount of knowledge of self. I needed people like my Aunt and teachers to ram that shit down my throat. I needed those those stories, shit WE still need those stories. Younger children should always have to hear these accounts and watch these movies, but with a younger audience also comes an even greater need to spruce things up. Given the trend, there’s a never ending bevy of things to distract kids during their formative stages. Competition for attention is at an all time high and that shit ain’t going nowhere, so it may be even harder to tell the tale of Kunta Kinte now because there’s some 400-600 other channels that you can turn to and watch something else.
All in all, this remake was very necessary to produce and execute. Necessary to the utmost for a new generation of kids who were able to tune out the original Roots in history class because of its low budget look. A certain amount of pain gets lost in translation looking back at film from 1977 with the eyes of someone who lives in 2016. It had to be made for the old epic to continue to be told or risk facing death itself.
We can never remove ourselves fully from slavery, so the angst and anger that happens when we see these things portrayed is positive, even if it makes us uneasy.
If you’re upset about seeing it then good, it supposed to be unnerving and thats what Roots should do. All while recognizing a part of American History that’s either far too often brushed under a big ass rug or over stylized for ratings.
Roots will be airing in four installments of nearly two hours each, from May 30 to June 2, 2016, on History, A&E, and Lifetime.