Barry Saunders

Saunders: What Snoop Dogg – and the rest of us – can learn from ‘Roots’

Malachi Kirby plays Kunta Kinte, left, and Emayatzy Corinealdi is Belle in the History Channel’s new version of ‘Roots.’
Malachi Kirby plays Kunta Kinte, left, and Emayatzy Corinealdi is Belle in the History Channel’s new version of ‘Roots.’

What I’ve learned:

▪ Never get a haircut from a bald-headed barber.

▪ If you’re visiting someone’s house and you think you see a plump, juicy raisin on the floor, don’t eat it – until you’re sure it doesn’t have legs. (Raisins shouldn’t have legs.)

▪ Don’t take your cultural cues from a potty-mouthed, misogynistic rapper who is most famous for the amount of weed he smokes.

The latter is for anyone inclined to listen to Calvin Broadus – aka Snoop Dogg, Snoop Lion or whichever name he’s going by now – when he says black people should boycott the new “Roots” television miniseries.

Why does the acclaimed cultural anthropologist feel that way?

For one, he may be rich enough to forget history. Most of us are not.

I watched a vile rant on Instagram in which he flaunted his tortured reasoning and limited vocabulary, using words usually reserved for when you slam the car door on your hand or find you’re walking barefoot behind someone’s dachshund that has dysentery.

Watching ‘Roots’ shouldn’t evoke the same happy emotions as watching, say Snoop Dogg’s classic ‘Soul Plane,’ but it should make those of us whose ancestors were enslaved feel proud – not that they were enslaved, but that they survived centuries of legalized vicious treatment and came out, through us, on the other side.

“They going to just keep beating that (stuff) into our heads about how they did us, huh?” he asked. He then advised “real ( N-words) like myself” to eschew “Roots” and other slavery-centered dramas such as WGN’s “Underground” and the Oscar-winning 2013 film “12 Years a Slave.”

Those films, he decried, show “the abuse that we took hundreds and hundreds of years ago.”

Anyone who thinks slavery was “hundreds and hundreds of years ago” and proudly refers to himself as an N-word should be the first person in front of a TV set to watch “Roots.” Don’t tell ol’ dude, but slavery ended 151 years ago. In the arc of human history, that’s a music video length of time.

Watching “Roots” shouldn’t evoke the same happy emotions as watching, say Mr. Dogg’s classic “Soul Plane,” but it should make those of us whose ancestors were enslaved feel proud – not that they were enslaved, but that they survived centuries of legalized vicious treatment and came out, through us, on the other side. It should make the rest of the country feel proud that America has evolved somewhat past its brutal beginnings.

The Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, bemoaned that he was missing part of the miniseries because he was on an airplane when I spoke with him Wednesday, but he seconded that “The history of race and racism and slavery should make us uncomfortable, uncomfortable to the point that we are unquestionably committed to standing against discrimination in any form. ... In the midst of the attacks on voting rights, and xenophobia, homophobia and classism, maybe we need to feel uncomfortable.”

Right on, Rev.

In Chicago last weekend, 69 people were reportedly shot, six killed. Of the city’s 489 homicides in 2015, 75 percent of the victims were black.

Want to bet that most of the gunmen were, too, and had little or no knowledge of their heritage, of what others endured so they could enjoy the freedom they have to go out and terrorize their own communities? How many of them, do you think, hurled Mr. Dogg’s favorite term of self-disregard at their target as they squeezed the trigger?

TV One news anchor Roland Martin suggested that if Mr. Dogg watched “Roots,” perhaps he would “not see himself as slave masters did: A (N-word).”

Martin, noting that Mr. Dogg and too many others feel that four slavery-based movies this millennium is too many, tweeted “Glad Jews don’t feel that way about the Holocaust.”

Does Mr. Dogg – I refuse to call a grown man Snoop – think our history started with hip-hop and foulmouthed rappers?

Amen.

Does Mr. Dogg – I refuse to call a grown man Snoop – think our history started with hip-hop and foulmouthed rappers boasting about how many N-words they killed today, how many bitches and hoes they bedded and the size of the rims on their Maybach? Does he think that the Underground Railroad is the secret route his drug dealer takes when surreptitiously delivering his sticky icky?

In 1977, when “Roots” originally aired and Alex Haley’s book was a sensation, I was working at Sandhurst Hosiery Mill and writing a weekly column for my hometown newspaper – a voluntary column because editor Glenn Sumpter said, “You can write but we aren’t going to pay you.” I wrote one day a simplistic column critical of black leadership in Richmond County. The most memorable criticism of the piece – “the half-copied conjugation of a negative mind” – was written by a friend of mine and printed as a letter to the editor. Ouch.

After the column ran, I received a letter gently rebuking my narrow-mindedness from Allen Mask, who is now a Triangle physician but then was a former journalist who was in med school. He also sent me a copy of Alex Haley’s book “Roots” and suggested that I read it to broaden my intellectual and historical scope.

I did, and it did.

That’s my suggestion to Mr. Dogg: if you’re not going to watch, read.

If you’re not going to read, shut the hell up.

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