Can I Say That?

I was just a kid when “Roots” was originally televised.  Back in the day when the only television viewing was on the three major networks.  If I am not mistaken, “Roots” was on ABC, but I could be wrong.  The original air date was January of 1977.  I was barely a teenager then, but the story sticks in my head with a great deal of detail.

It was both hard to watch and riveting.  I wondered then a little, and I wonder now a lot, how it was for white people to watch that mini series.  (I’m not a sure if I can say “white people” on this site.  My posts seem to be disappearing of late for doing so). Anyhoo…so thinking about “Roots” today, and the clash of cultures that it depicted, that it was broadcast to, that our nation was…and is today, and everything that surrounds trying to discuss that.  

This site is run by some number of white people.  (There’s that darned word again). Leave a preferred euphemism in the comments for consideration.  One can tell that it is run by white people by what they forcefully object to, and that which they do not.  For example, videos from YouTube get posted on this site and stay up for days that are very offensive to black people.  That action is perfectly hunky-dory.  (Can I say that)?  I guess we’ll find out.  For the uninitiated, it means “alright, copacetic, agreeable…”. That’s what I meant.  Anyway…In this month, June 2020, within two weeks of the murder of George Floyd, videos posted declaring a Floyd to be a criminal, and declaring that racism in the US does not exist…all good.  

On the other hand, when the videos were pointed out as being offensive, well, that was “hate speech.”  Now, I’ll be frank.  When I pointed out that the videos, and the person posting them were perpetrating a fraud, it wasn’t the most delicate exercise.  GRANTED.  But, um…a YouTube troll making the statements made in those videos, and the poster accusing me of crimes…and inviting me to commit more…and calling that out was given the same treatment?  Well, THAT is how you can tell.  

Today I posted a video from the film, “Glory.”  The portion posted depicted Trip, played by Denzel Washington, being flogged.  Washington won an Academy award for his portrayal.  The scene is quite compelling.  The Colonel, who is whi…shhh, and the Major, also whi…shhh, and the Sgt who performed the flogging, let’s say…he was UnCola.  They essentially presided over the flogging of Trip for refusing his payment, and telling the other black soldiers to refuse theirs as well.  They used to pay black (not sure if I can say that) soldiers less than (you know) soldiers of a different (you know).  Why did they do that?  Well, I am not sure if this site will allow me to say.  It’s kind of like racist oppression…but, I am not sure if I can say that here.  

So, “Roots”. Roots also has a whipping scene.  Kunta Kinte, the protagonist, was a bit of a rebel.  You see, Kunta was born if Africa.  (Not sure if I can say that.  It’s a continent where lots of…you know…came from). Anyway, Kunta Kinte had not been “broken” as it were by assimilation, so he rebelled in a variety of ways.  Late in the film they cut off half of his foot.  Kind of like how this site removes posts.  (Can I say that)?  In the whipping scene, they were trying to tell Kunta Kinte what his name was.  The overseer wanted to rename Kunta “Toby”, so he whipped Kunta until he agreed to call himself Toby.  

This was also a gripping scene, but I chose not to post it.  You see, at the end of the scene, Kunta relents.  Not only does he say the name “Toby”, but he shouted it out louder when commanded to.  Now, I don’t blame Alex Haley for writing the scene that way.  I don’t blame Levar Burton for playing it that way.  But I don’t like the “tell me your name, boy” message that it essentially supported.  Some people (I won’t say who), don’t understand or appreciate the importance of self determination since their perspective is framed by dominant culture, and they blend right in to it, say, like a sugar cookie into milk.  (There is a similar scene in “The Wiz” as well.  The Crows beat the Scarecrow down until his spirit is crushed.  Same message)

For that reason, I don’t prefer the scene from “Roots.”  I prefer the scene from “Glory” because Trip is more defiant.  Trip maintains a bit more dignity.  They also reveal the scars on Trip’s back from the many, many previous whippings.  In the scene, Trip stares directly into the camera, which the viewer understands as being the Colonel’s eyes.  The Colonel averts his gaze for a moment out of apparent guilt.  Trip (Denzel Washington) never cries out.  He refuses to give his oppressors the satisfaction.  He does emit a single, eloquent crystal tear from his right eye.  The tear runs down his cheek, and clings to his chin.  The viewer can see daylight through the translucent tear which seems as big as a water glass next to the actor’s brown skin.  The tear represents that he is enduring pain.  Trip is, after all, a human being.

So, I posted the scene from “Glory.”  The Academy approved of it.  I’m having a hard time understanding why this site does not.  Maybe it was a mistake.

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