Owning our history


Yesterday I went off on a rant about Ben Affleck and about his (successful) attempt to rewrite his personal history on a TV show called Finding Your Roots. I was outraged, livid that someone with a little bit of power would choose to abuse it in such a way to omit the parts of his history.  I’m still annoyed and now of course with word of his actions getting out he looks like an even bigger jackass.

I can almost pity Ben Affleck, clearly the narrative he’d constructed for himself and his ancestors did NOT include slave owning, although everyone has people (or whole branches) in their family tree they’re not comfortable with. The inspirational stories of relations overcoming obstacles, surviving the impossible that buoyed him were threatened by this harsh reality. Which brings me to a single thought. Why?

Why is the truth so scary you have to block it? Does finding out your ancestors did wrong or evil negate any good you have done. Not to be flippant about slavery or Ben Affleck, but I seem to recall you stumping hard to help get Obama elected.  I’m pretty sure Ben Affleck that The President would tell you that you’re forgiven (or at the least not responsible).

Thinking about our respective genealogies and slave owning ancestors, our country’s history with slavery and the racism in our country; both institutionalized (I’m looking at you bad cops) and individual and wondering “weren’t we supposed to be past this by now?”  The media loves to talk about the millennials  and how they are the most ethnically diverse group in US history.  That they are pillars of tolerance and acceptance… and then I listened to this short piece on NPR and I realize we’ve still got a long way to go.

For those of you interested on the really fascinating NPR story the audio link is below.



I want to thank those who have shared their views in the comments of my previous post (both current and any future). I think if there was any one point I wanted to make with my post was that we can’t hide, we’ve got to talk about this. Trying to pretend that we as a nation (or as the human species) are past racism or bigotry are deluding ourselves. Talking is important, knowing your fellow humans matters.

and from my friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center, I give you 10 ways to fight hate

One thought on “Owning our history

  1. I made these comments on another blog but would like to repeat them here.

    The people who allow these shows to dig up their family’s past history should have the final say if it is to be aired or not. This is not a news show but for entertainment. It is without saying most times good entertainment and helps all of us that are interested in genealogy. But I feel the people being shown have the right not to have something shown. Many of us in our own family’s know of relatives who do not want family secrets told and for the most part we respect that. As George Bernard Shaw said

    “If you cannot get rid of the family
    skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”

    However some do not want to watch the dance.

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