Snoop Dogg is right about Roots remake

Race Issues
by Cal Thomas
Posted on Thursday, June 2, 2016, at 12:47 pm

My musical tastes do not include rap and hip-hop, but when Snoop Dogg comments on the Roots remake, saying he is tired of movies about slavery and would prefer a series “about the success that black folks are having,” he is singing my song.

While there is no question that slavery has left an indelible mark on the descendants of slaves and the nation (former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called it America’s “birth defect”), continuing to dwell on the subject does nothing to improve a single black life.

Snoop’s point is that seeing more stories about African-Americans who are successful would inspire more minorities to overcome the difficult circumstances in which many find themselves. He is correct.

Roots is depressing. Stories about overcoming obstacles are inspirational and can produce motivation. Add hard work and any life can be improved.

The kinds of examples Snoop is talking about can be found everywhere if one will seek them. My search took me to a website called Tech.Co and an article “38 Black Entrepreneurs Share Their Origin Stories.” There is also a link to another article: “21 Most Successful Black Entrepreneurs Throughout History.”

Here’s one of my historical favorites: 

“Stephen Smith grew up as an indentured servant in Pennsylvania. From a young age, he was assigned to work in the lumberyards by Thomas Boude, whose wealth stemmed from his extensive lumber business. After buying his freedom for $50 at the age of 21, he continued to work in the lumberyards until establishing his own lumber business in 1822, as well as dealing coal. By the 1850s, Smith was grossing $100,000 in annual sales. By 1857, Smith was worth $500,000 [approximately $13.5 million today]. On top of being a businessman, Smith was a minister and served as chairman of the black abolitionist organization in Columbia, Pa.”

The stories of modern African-American entrepreneurs and visionaries may not be as dramatic as the historical ones, but they are still compelling.

What all of these men and women have in common is that they did not accept present conditions as the final verdict on their lives. They committed themselves through hard work and the vision for a brighter future.

Take the time to read their stories. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of most of them. Even during Black History Month, many of their stories are never told.

Why is that? One would think that these inspirational stories are tailor-made for so-called civil rights leaders, who could tell African-American kids, “If they could do it, so can you.” Instead, we get stories about slavery, discrimination, and charges of racism.

I live in a suburb of Washington, D.C. At night the local TV stations frequently lead with crime stories. Many involve young African-American men with guns. The image conveyed to viewers is a negative one.

There is no secret to becoming successful, or at least self-sufficient: Stay in school, avoid drugs and crime, get married before you have children and work to stay married, develop a vision.

Snoop Dogg’s criminal background and misogynist lyrics may not make him the best role model for young African-Americans, but he’s right about being fed-up with slavery movies. So am I.

© 2016 Tribune Content Agency LLC.

Listen to Cal Thomas’ commentary on The World and Everything in It.

Cal Thomas

Cal contributes weekly commentary to WORLD Radio. Over the last five decades, he worked for NBC News, FOX News, and USA Today and began his syndicated news column in 1984. Cal is the author of 10 books, including What Works: Commonsense Solutions to the Nation's Problems. Follow him on Twitter @CalThomas.

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  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 06/08/2016 11:32 pm

    @Grasp at the heel:  I agree with you.  I meant only to refer to perceptions, which, as you know, do not necessarily reflect reality.

  • Grasp at heel
    Posted: Wed, 06/08/2016 11:32 pm

    I do not  think he is white washing anything, just calling for something productive. At this point all Roots, and productions like it, are doing is beating a dead horse. In my opinion not unlike Gibson's The Passion Film

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 06/08/2016 11:32 pm

    I believe that there is tension where there need not be in this aspect of our national history.  I say need not be, not because there is nothing there, but because there are those who constantly muddy the waters in order to keep us from seeing what the truth really is.  (I cite Ferguson as a recent example.)  I believe that Satan is behind all of this.  So while I understand and accept this column for the truth in it, I can also see how someone may see it as an attempt by a white man to white-wash (no pun intended) our history.We need reconciliation.  The first step to reconciliation is a clear understanding of the truth.  So I believe that continued research and publication of this aspect of our history--and, by the way, the history of our relations with the Indians--is very important.  But it needs to be done with clear eyes and honest hearts.  White people need to understand that dismissing what Blacks say they experience, or trying to redirect their efforts as this column does, just leads to more frustration in the belief that we do not want to hear them.  But Black people need to understand that excusing any wrong done toward a White person in the name of payback, or "understanding" the source of violence while not doing anything about it, also leads to more frustration.  We all need to listen quickly, speak slowly, and take action alongside each other, not in opposition to each other.

  • Narissara
    Posted: Wed, 06/08/2016 11:32 pm

    The original production of Roots was pretty intense for its day, but it was also well-done.  It seems to me this trend of doing remakes and reboots of productions that are hard to improve on is either to make them more grisly for today's viewers or else to revise history.  After trying and giving up on watching Twelve Years A Slave, I question what message yet another movie about slavery would really be meant to convey:  to highlight the injustices of slavery, or to stir up animosity toward Christians.  In Twelve Years, one slaveholder was painted as a particularly sadistic psychopath whose sick behavior was fueled by his Christian leanings, as if Christians were not responsible for spearheading the movement to abolish slavery.  It seemed to me the movie was not about white oppression of blacks but of alleged Christian oppression of non-Christians.  What a slap in the face to Christian African-Americans.  

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