This past week the news is about Ben Affleck’s asking Dr. Gates to remove from the episode of Finding your Roots, the fact that his ancestors owned slaves. Then the rest of the week was spent saying sorry that he denied it and PBS dealing with the fallout and defending their editorial integrity.
It’s not the first time that a celebrity has been informed that their ancestor had done something that wasn’t acceptable. It’s my opinion that you can’t be held responsible for what your ancestor has done. No it’s not a shining moment and no you’re not proud, but its history, it’s what happened in the past and you can’t change that. I think the better way of handling it would have been to do as many (and there have been many) of the other celebrities have done in the past. That being; to face it and let people know that it’s wan’t acceptable. After all; Kevin Bacon, Ken Burns, Anderson Cooper, Melissa Etheridge, all have received the same news. I’m sure Cynthia Nixon’s wasn’t proud that her great-great-great grandmother killed her husband with an axe either.
I think that what Ben Affleck missed about his family history was the irony of it all. Ben’s 3x great-grandfather had owned 25 slaves but it was also revealed that his mother had marched for civil right in Mississippi 100 years later.
The bottom line is that when you do your family history you don’t know what you will find . We all would like to be descendants of scholars, military leaders or even kings or queens but the reality is that it doesn’t always turn out that way.