Roots” is the story of one black family as it journeyed from Africa through generations of American slavery and found eventual freedom."
But why did this ‘fictionalized history’ stir the interest of so many?
While there undoubtedly are several reasons, perhaps the most profound is that they were struck with the full impact of what it meant to be a black slave.
A great historical atrocity was ‘brought to life.’
Actually, in recent years many books and plays regarding the plight of oppressed minorities have appeared.
Extensive research into the circumstances that led to the genocide or extreme degradation of one people by another has been done and the findings compiled.
Of course, these ‘new histories’ may have their own theories and prejudices.
But, for the most part, they starkly reveal past events so shocking that some find them difficult to read.
Perhaps, as never before has the extent of human’s inhumanity been studied.
What we learn from historical injustices?
Sadly, in studying history, one is forced to realize that there have been many great injustices, many holocausts.
Numerically, the treatment of the Africans captured and taken by ship to the Americas, ranks as one of the greatest.
However, with many atrocities it is difficult even to estimate the numbers killed.
How large were the native Indian populations of the Caribbean islands and the American continents?
Yet, in time, “the aboriginal Indian population [of the Caribbean islands] suffered total extinction.”
Consider, too, the North American Indians.
It is generally believed that their numbers were reduced from millions to a small fraction of that.
Today, many of the ‘battles against the Indians’ are more realistically viewed as massacres.
In turning to recent history, we find that the number of known atrocities leaps upward.
Can we view the world as more civilized in our century when we consider the exterminations carried out by the Nazis?
Documentation of Nazi policy reveals a calculated plan of genocide, not only against the Jews, but against the Slavic peoples and others.
It is believed that over a million non-Jewish Poles were murdered, as well as over a quarter of a million Gypsies.
And these cold figures cannot convey the full impact of the horrors of the concentration camps—starvation, beatings, “medical experiments” (often sterilization), and frequently the gas chambers.
And that such injustices have occurred in many places on this earth testifies that such evils cannot be viewed as the mark of any one race or nationality.
Hate has no one color, language or flag.
Realizing this helps us to avoid taking an extreme position when confronted with such shocking history regarding racial or nationalistic hatred.
If a once-persecuted people take the attitude, ‘Just wait until we are on top; we’ll get revenge for our fathers,’ what is accomplished?
Only a continuance of atrocities!
Rather, we must try to understand what did happen.
For example, a British documentary, “The Fight Against Slavery,” showed, as reported in one magazine, “that slavery was a crime not merely against blacks but all humanity.
Guilt must be shared by both races, since many slavers were Africans.”
Too, generalizations about any event or situation are dangerous.
In the worst of times individuals were affected differently.
For example, under slavery, some blacks were treated well.
Others were chained, raped, maimed and torn from their families at whim.
The remaining question is: How, with the guilty long dead, can those responsible be punished?
If one would persecute all white people, many innocent people would be hurt.
On the other hand, the opposite extreme—‘that’s no concern to me; it’s all dead history’—also is unwise.
Must persecution come against one’s own family for one to recognize how dreadful it is?
Should not what minorities have suffered help us to show compassion toward them?
Since many injustices have come out of myths as to racial or social inferiority, can we afford to adopt such fictional thinking?
Beyond such self-examination, there is another personal benefit gained by taking an honest look at the past.
Authentic history clearly proclaims: Many times human has not loved or cared for his or her fellow-kind.
Rather than weep for what has overtaken only one people, a person would be wiser to show concern for all the poor masses of humankind who have suffered tyranny after tyranny.