Recently I finally finished watching the four part series Roots and I have to say how thankful I am for this series. It was not only an eye opening experience into the past but also one for the present and it’s hard to explain why watching the horrors of the past makes me ready for today but I’ll try anyway.
While to some people Roots was just another thing- movie, show, or book, about slaves, something to remind America of the past black people had to deal with. I instead saw something different. To me the past never belongs solely to any one person or people but rather to the world and it’s something we all have to look at in order to learn from. So to elaborate, in much the same way that the Holocaust is not solely Jewish history, slavery is also not solely black history. It is not something only black people have to learn from but the world- and that means America too.
So what did I learn from this? Well, after watching Roots I was reminded of what it truly means to be oppressed. In the world of slavery it was shown as the taking away of a human beings right to life because their life was no longer considered under their own control. Their families, health, freedom of voice, movement, and sense of safety were under the control of someone else. However I also realized something I hadn’t necessarily caught in other movies. I realized that although someone is being suppressed they have a choice of whether to succumb to it or not.
Through the lives of Kunta Kinte and his family I saw person after person go through only a portion of the heinous things that were barely talked about in my history classes. I then had to consider how many times this had happened in history and how much more. Then when I got over my anger and frustration at the perpetrators I had to take a look at the victims and realize that all of them- at least in this narrative, had made a choice. They had chosen to not be made the tools of oppression, to fight where they could, and always seek out their freedom. I have never seen someone fight for their freedom so much as when I watched Roots and until that point I had never seen how painful it could be and how costly but they kept on fighting. Watching Roots helped remind me that freedom, to be who you are and not subject to the actions of another person is not a choice, it’s a right. Although someone can try to take it away from you or make it hard for you to exercise it, it is still your choice whether you stop fighting for it. It is your choice whether you start to believe the lies you’ve been told and everything that attempts to put you down. It is your choice. I have learned from the story of the Kinte family that when faced with difficult circumstances we always have a choice of whether to fight for what is ours or to just lay down and take what we’re given.
Looking at the present I know that racism still exists, sexism still exists, and that as a black woman I’m doubly disadvantaged. I know that police brutality is happening and that too many lives are being lost and excused and whether my silent friends want to believe it or not I could be the next hashtag. However I also know that as a human being I have rights, rights that weren’t given to me by the Declaration of Independence but were given to me at birth. I know that I have a choice of whether to go about my life as though there’s nothing wrong with the status quo or to fight for my rights even if it hurts and gets ugly because it’s mine and I choose it.
So I choose to not remain silent about the things going on around me. I choose to not just take the lowest wage when it’s decided on my race, sex, or background. I choose to not act as though hashtagging the names of people of color is a norm. I choose to fight for my freedom to earn what I’ve worked for, have my voice heard, and to know that if I die unjustly, justice will be served. Thank you Roots for reminding me that I have a choice and I choose to keep fighting for freedom.