Roots: It's a Different World For Snoop and Roland Martin
"I wake up each day in a house built by slaves." -- First Lady Michelle Obama
This week marked the airing of the much anticipated History Channel remake of Alex Haley's classic novel turned epic miniseries, Roots. Tapping rising Black box office savior, Will Packer to take the reins as producer, the movie chronicles the terrors faced by Kunta Kinte, a young Mandinka warrior savagely ripped from his home in Africa to meet a fate met by so many of our ancestors, the clutches of the Transatlantic slave trade.
The film blossoms into a tale of Kunta's determination to reclaim his freedom, holdfast to his identity, as well as the journey and growth of the subsequent generations to derive from Kunta and his lineage as a new people in America, the African American, as they attempt to forge their way and stitch a place in the quilt of America's burgeoning identity as a nation, a slave nation.
But like a dash of salt in your grits or a waist trainer that is your actual size, that ain't enough for some of y'all.
A number of people have expressed outrage at yet another Hollywood portrayal of Black people as slaves. Citing that, such depictions marginalize the Black experience in America and minimize our contributions, history and origin as a people to slavery.
The most prominent voice of disdain came from none other than rapper and professional weed seed separator, Snoop Dogg. Dressed like Pearl from 227, Snoop wrapped his hair, grabbed a cup of coffee, sat down next to his front window, peaked his head out to his stoop and proceeded to admonish Mary, Rose, Saundra and the rest of us for supporting the miniseries. Pearl further stated that she would prefer to see less stories like Roots, Underground and 12 Years a Slave, which depict how Black people were "dogged" by White people and more stories about the successes and greatness of Black people in this country.
In short he said, "F*ck Roots.
While I am usually grateful to see Snoop Dogg emerge from Indo smoke, Doritos crumbs and used Bluntville wrappers to provide sound and sage advice on matters of race and cultural representation, News One's Roland Martin did not share in my joy. Mr. Martin took Snoop to task, blasting him for delivering a profanity-laced chastisement to the film and its supporters and challenged Snoop to put his money where his mouth is, support the efforts of Black filmmakers like Spike Lee and Ava Duvernay and advising him to put down that dank and go head to the bank.
Not to be upstaged, Snoop fired back ever so eloquently by telling Roland to sit his fat bald headed $5 ass down before he made change, which is ironic considering how there is also an ice box where Snoop's hairline use to be.
This is why we can't have nice things.
I am disappointed on so many levels.
If the backlash towards Roots was based on an outcry against T.I. messing up the vibe like Michelle in Destiny's Child whenever she decided to jump on the track's bridge every time he appeared on screen to recite the Thesaurus, then maybe we could have a meeting of the minds. But for the backlash over this film to be based on the premise that tales of slavery do not depict the greatness of our people is perhaps the most disheartening notion I have heard in a long time.
Are we ashamed of our history as slaves?
This entire conflict reminds me of an episode of A Different World entitled "Mammy Dearest" (Season 5 Episode 11). Whitley and Kimberly were at odds over Whitley's desire to display an art exhibit consisting of various depictions of "Mammy" as a part of the festivities surrounding Gilbert Hall's dedication ceremony. The episode also contends with Lena unearthing Whitley's family secret of being Black slave owners.
Kim's angst stemmed from her belief that the mammy represents a stereotypical portrayal of Black women originating from slavery and the antebellum south. Mammies, whose most famous caricatures are Hattie McDaniels' Oscar winning performance in Gone with the Wind and Aunt Jemima, are usually depicted as large, dark skin docile Black women, who were content to do their master's bidding while donning a hair rag, a toothy grin and humming negro spirituals while rocking her master's children to sleep while her own were left to fend for themselves.
I am disappointed on so many levels. ... Are we ashamed of our history as slaves?
While whole heartedly understanding the offensive historical implications, Whitley believed that mammy is a symbol of strength in the face of adversity. She believed that Mammy was a part of our history to be embraced. If it was not for mammy's strength, her ability to put on the mask of a smile so that her children could live a better life than she and her calmness in the midst of the raging storm of racism and servitude, Black women would not be able to stand as tall, strong, proudly and beautiful as they do today.
It takes Mr. Gains to come in and remind Whitley and Kimberly that our past does not express who we presently are, but it serves as a window of the trials and tribulations that it took for us to get here. Our history, even its most ugly and shameful parts, are opportunities for us to learn about ourselves and forge a bigger and brighter future based on the foundation laid by those before us who did not have the chance to lead the lives we lead today.
God, we need this show back. SMH
And Snoop and Roland need a Mr. Gaines in their lives.
I am a fan of both of these brothers. Snoop's Rhythm and Gangster is one of my favorite albums and what Roland Martin is doing with News One is outstanding. Especially, when he has Angela Rye on his show -- that sister speaks.
But they need someone to come in with a level head and explain to them that it is okay to disagree as Black people, but to navigate that conversation with love. Someone with some wisdom who can help both of these men realize how much more we can accomplish when we work as a united front.
Snoop, yes, I saw 12 Years a Slave, Precious and Hotel Rwanda once and I have no desire to ever see them again because of how painful the stories were. And without a doubt Hollywood needs to be held accountable for the depictions of Black people and all minorities they present for mass consumption.
But Snoop, you need to understand, brother, that beyond the myth of the majority of Black films being about slavery, what is most damaging is the bolstering of the narrative that tells Black people that a film like Roots does not depict the greatness and success that African American people have inherently exuded since the beginning of time.
There have NEVER been GREATER, MORE RESILIENT, BEAUTIFUL, SELFLESS Black people to walk the face of this earth than those who were slaves. This film further opened my eyes to just how deep the currents of struggle and pain ran through our people like the mighty river Mississippi dumping into a delta of anguish all in the name of freedom.
There have never been greater, more resilient, beautiful, selfless Black people to walk the face of this earth than those who were slaves.
Men like George who stood tall and protective of their families, ready to give their lives and who set their focus solely on obtaining freedom for themselves and their families.
Women like Kizzie, Matilda and Belle who suffered the silent shame of rape at the hands of their masters, birthed and raised children only to have them snatched from their limbs and sold like chattel, but through it all keeping arms open and hearts full of love for their remaining children, husbands and most importantly their own sanity.
Children like Tom, who tried their hardest to live their life under the umbrella of slavery and silently fight for freedom under the guise of subservience, but learning the lesson we all learn at some point that no matter how deferential you are you will always be looked at as less than and from there doing your part to fight and challenge the status quo.
Elders like Kunta Kinte who passed down tradition after tradition to generation after generation to ensure the true essence of the Black being, body, soul, history and spirit were never lost. Elders who risked their lives to ensure we never forgot the warrior spirit we all possess inside of us. There is so much that can be learned from this tale.
And Roland, yes those of us who are in position to aid in the effort to add credibility and honor to how Black people are shown in film, should not sit back and wag our fingers and curse the efforts of those who are taking strides to change how Black narratives are delivered if we are not willing to use our platform to further elevate those efforts.
But as a Black man who wakes up everyday fully aware and fully prepared to take on racism and injustice, a man who hands down has dedicated his life and his career to ensuring that Black people get the information that is vital and pertinent to our community in a truthful, unfiltered and honest manner, it is beyond important and incumbent upon you to use every opportunity you have to converse, engage and educate brothers and sisters who aren't where you are yet from a place of love.
Does Snoop smoke more loud than a little bit? Yes.
Was he higher than Wiz Khalifa in space when he posted that video in his Meemaws hair scarf? You bet cha.
Should brothers with means do more for the culture? Yup.
And I get the anger, man. I was stirring a pot of grits when I saw Snoop's video and I understood how Al Green's wife must've felt when she decided she wasn't putting sugar or salt in her grits that day but rather she was putting those grits on Al's ass, because I wanted to fling my phone right in my pot, too, out of anger. But sometimes, we have to come down from our ivory tower and meet people where they are in order for them to understand the message. Your message was so crucial and it seems to have been lost by Snoop in the fray.
Let's be clear: The institution of slavery bore no positive fruits. The institution of slavery took thousands if not millions of Black lives. It degraded men, took the innocence of children and scorched the wombs of women with seeds of hate all while turning a profit for those in power. The institution of slavery is never to be lauded or celebrated.
But the people who were enslaved? These people ARE NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF.
There has never been a group of Black people who have given so much of themselves for other Black people than those who were enslaved. The ground that we walk on, the air we breathe are all filled with their spirits. It is because of these ancestors working in tandem that men like Snoop Dogg and Roland Martin can even exist. Rich, successful, international superstars. Able to freely travel the country and abroad with only a passport and not freedom papers.
It is because of these ancestors working in tandem that men like Snoop Dogg and Roland Martin can even exist.
It is because of these people that you are free to perform in any venue you please and use the same bathroom as everyone else and not a Dixie cup. It is because of the blood these people poured that your children can attend top notch schools and not have to learn from outdated books or sit in a one room segregated log cabin school house after walking for miles barefoot.
There are forces working ever so diligently to erase the history of our ancestors. To act as if slavery never happened. To sweeten the story, lessen the horrors that our people went through while diminishing our contributions. To berate Black people for supporting such a necessary film and to further act as if everything Black people have accomplished outside of surviving slavery in this country is great when none of those accomplishments would be possible had our ancestors not had the fight to survive slavery to begin with, is congruent to the practice of erasure so many are already engaged in when it comes to our story.
That is self-erasure, which is even worse. That saddens me deeply and we cannot afford for that to happen. Nor can we afford to argue with one another over the issues. And though it may be a different world from where each of us come from, we have to speak to one another and not at one another if we are ever going to be able to mobilize, brainstorm and engage in meaningful efforts to push our people forward, higher and further.
Like my good brother Marvin Jones, Hampton University graduate and member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., said recently during a discussion about Roots, our ancestors were superheroes. Which means that we too have the power to change the world and make it a better place than when we found it.
Let's open our eyes, look towards our ancestors in the sky and like Kunta Kinte taught us all, Behold the only thing greater than yourself!
A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.