The original “Roots” miniseries debuted in 1977 as millions tuned in to watch the epic story surrounding a black man and his family’s journey from slavery to the dilemmas of his great-grandchildren and beyond. Although the miniseries was created to display the courage of Kunta Kinte and his daughter Kizzy along with the difficult challenges they encountered on a daily basis, the remake has sparked debate within the black community, especially amid the gorilla controversy which seemed to dominate Memorial Day. “Roots,” in the newest form, not only has a resounding cultural significance to present-day America but had a superior presence within the fabric of this country’s history as well.
While many fail to understand how one would have an effect on the other, for many African-Americans the connection is quite clear. The killing of an animal has seemed to trump a day set aside to honor America’s fallen soldiers and totally ignore the importance of saving a child (who just happened to be black). For some angry animal lovers, the parents of the child should be charged with the gorilla’s murder. For others, the animal could have been tranquilized, but did not need to be shot.
Meanwhile, the “Roots” remake, which was scheduled to air long before the incident with the 17-year-old silverback Harambe occurred, displays what seems to be the current state of black America complete with slavery-like challenges. While they are not really related to one another on a factual basis, theoretically the gorilla controversy enhances the pain of the popular miniseries.
Video footage of the dreadful incident which took place at the Cincinnati zoo quickly went viral as witnesses watched in horror. The three-year-old boy dodged a railing, went through wires and over a moat wall before landing in the gorilla’s residency. The footage captured the Harambe as he dragged the child through the water and pushed him around. It is quite possible that the child could have been saved without killing the gorilla, but zookeepers were not willing to take that chance. The 450-pound animal was shot and killed with a rifle.
The country’s outrage has been met with cries of racism from the black community amid the airing of “Roots.” The horror the boy’s parents faced as their son’s life was being threatened is the same pain many African-American parents feel on a daily basis any time their son leaves the home whether to attend school, a sporting event or perhaps, to go to the store for skittles and iced tea.
Although many believe the zookeepers made the right decision, social media has been flooded with statements suggesting that the gorilla was killed because of irresponsible parents. They believe the parents should have been hit with charges of neglect and child endangerment. While it is not fair to judge the situation with a handful of unknowns, this has not quieted the majority.
The “Roots” remake is not only a window into the birth of these United States called America, but if viewed with fresh eyes can also provide insight into the reason black men in America continue to be shot down and treated as animals. Rapper Cordozar Calvin Broadus, Jr., known professionally as Snoop Dogg, has spoken out and encouraged the black community to skip the remake and thereby refuse to allow society to add insult to injury by reminding African-Americans of the way they are viewed in this country. When speaking of movies such as “Roots” and “12 Years a Slave,” Snoop said:
They just want to keep showing the abuse we took hundreds and hundreds of years ago when black people are taking the ‘same abuse’ today.
However, it really was not that long ago and the conversation should not cease until better treatment toward black America emerges. As long as the subject matter is viewed as taboo, the truth about it will remain smudged and categorized as “the past.” It is part of America’s history and has a great influence in the current day.
“Roots” although painful to watch is a true story of perseverance and strength. It highlights the importance of knowing one’s lineage and how ancestry impacts the current generation. During a recent interview Anika Noni Rose, the actress depicting Kizzy in the series remake, said:
I hope it’s something people watch with their families and that it opens conversation. I hope it spurs a level of human compassion and makes people more open to the person next to them on the train or bus, or walking on the street, and to what their journey may have been and what their life is about.”
The “Roots” remake premiered on Monday, May 30 at 9 p.m. and will continue through Thursday. It is an eight-hour miniseries which will air four consecutive nights on A&E, Lifetime and the History channel. While one has nothing to do with the other, the remake of the series airs amid the current gorilla controversy for an epic outcry of contempt.
Meanwhile, all of this seemed to trump the day intended for Americans to remember the fallen soldiers on Memorial Day and the miracle that a three-year-old boy’s life was saved from a dangerous and unfortunate encounter with a 450-pound gorilla at the Cincinnati zoo.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
InStyle: This Is Why You Need to Watch the Roots Remake Tonight
CNN: Did Gorilla Have to Die?
Fox News: Snoop Dogg calls for boycott of ‘Roots’ remake in profanity-lased video
Top Image Courtesy of Wally Gobetz – Flickr License
First Inline Image Courtesy of Mark Dumont – Flickr License
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