When I first heard of the Ben Affleck ROOTS story I didn’t think much of it.
What public figure doesn’t try to protect his or her image?
They hire whole teams of people to do it.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
But the more I thought about it, and after further reading it became unsettling to me.
And then I saw this:
Gates- “Your 6th great grandfather volunteered to serve in the patriot army.”
Gates- “He fought Ben in the American Revolution.”
Affleck- “Wow that is incredible.”
Gates- “You are descendant from a patriot.”
Affleck- “I knew I had a special affinity for the football team. That is really, really something. I’m developing this movie about the Revolutionary War. Now I can see why I was drawn to it. ”
Gates- “Yeah you have a personal connection.”
Affleck- “That is amazing.”
Yeah that is amazing because Affleck did not want to disclose the fact that at least one of his family members was a slave owner.
And it’s amazing that Henry Louis Gates Jr. went along with Affleck’s request that the information be withheld.
It only came out after the emails between Sony and Gates were leaked by hackers.
In fairness Gates didn’t want to go along with the scheme, but eventually relented, writing:
“It would embarrass him and compromise our integrity. I think he is getting very bad advice.”
In the same email Gates also wrote: “Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.”
Gates should have taken his own advice.
He’s just as responsible, if not more, than Affleck.
I say that because just a few months ago my colleagues and I traced our ROOTS for CNN.
Some of us uncovered some really painful information about our ancestors.
My colleague Michaela Pereira who was adopted, took on the subject fearlessly.
My mother and I made a very painful trip to a slave dungeon in Ghana.
I also learned that my great grandfather was a white overseer at the plantation where he and my Mulatto great grandmother worked and met.
They had a secret child, my grandmother.
My great grandfather eventually committed suicide.
In the same series, my colleague Anderson Cooper shared with the world that his family had once owned slaves.
It should not be surprising to anyone anywhere that a white person in America could possibly be the descendant of slave owners.
In fact it should be expected.
In full disclosure, I really like Ben Affleck.
I commend him for his commitment to The Congo and his other charitable works.
But, the whole point of tracing one’s roots is to face our pasts with honesty, integrity and dignity no matter what is uncovered.
If people see someone like Ben Affleck being transparent about our country’s history perhaps it will make our county’s future a bit easier race-wise.
Imagine that being Batman’s legacy instead of how much he raked in at the box office.
That would be my kind of superhero.