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“I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed” — Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck has issued an apology on why he asked not to have his slave-owning ancestors featured on “Finding Your Roots.”

Affleck posted on Facebook  an apology of sorts and his reasons why he didn’t want information disclosed.

After an exhaustive search of my ancestry for “Finding Your Roots,” it was discovered that one of my distant relatives was an owner of slaves.

I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.

Skip decided what went into the show. I lobbied him the same way I lobby directors about what takes of mine I think they should use. This is the collaborative creative process. Skip agreed with me on the slave owner but made other choices I disagreed with. In the end, it’s his show and I knew that going in. I’m proud to be his friend and proud to have participated.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a news program. Finding Your Roots is a show where you voluntarily provide a great deal of information about your family, making you quite vulnerable. The assumption is that they will never be dishonest but they will respect your willingness to participate and not look to include things you think would embarrass your family.

I regret my initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story. We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors and the degree of interest in this story suggests that we are, as a nation, still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery. It is an examination well worth continuing. I am glad that my story, however indirectly, will contribute to that discussion. While I don’t like that the guy is an ancestor, I am happy that aspect of our country’s history is being talked about.

In response to Affleckgate, PBS also issued its own statement.

“PBS and WNET are conducting an internal review led by our respective programming teams of the circumstances around the ‘Finding Your Roots’ episode ‘Roots of Freedom,’” the public broadcasting network’s statement said.

“This matter came to PBS’ attention on Friday morning, April 17th. Professor (Henry Louis) Gates and his producers immediately responded to our initial questions. In order to gather the facts to determine whether or not all of PBS’ editorial standards were observed, on Saturday, April 18th, we began an internal review. We have been moving forward deliberately yet swiftly to conduct this review.”

Image Credits: AP

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  • Tanielle

    This goes to show how much shame slavery created in all groups. I don’t fault Ben Affleck for not wanting it aired. We all have family secrets that we are ashamed of. If a black person learned that their ancestors owned slaves they probably wouldn’t want that shared with the public either. There are also many other shameful things that one might not have wanted aired. I think to maintain the integrity of the program all parties simply should have agreed to not air the episode.

    • BSuga

      There were some Black people who owned their own family, not all but many. The statement that Black people owned slaves has a lot of nuances and context that issue. Actually, on Finding My Roots Ben Jealous’ 3rd great grandfather was listed on the Slave Schedule as a slave-owner. He bought his freedom for 1500 and 8 years later his wife & children. Yes, there were Black and Mixed slave owners, but SOME bought their family.

  • Ben Affleck should of known that people would criticize him for not being upfront with exposing the fact of his slave owning ancestors. Also, Gates should of used more courage in presenting this fact in public. Why would he email a Sony CEO (Sony is part of the Hollywood empire) when his show is about outlining the transparent history of many groups of people? It doesn’t make sense. Either way, Gates messed up badly. It is ironic that Affleck did this when he champions his liberal “credentials.” Of course, he will apologize. Apologies are commonly shown these days. The larger picture is that we have to learn about the brutal history of slavery and understand that the legacy of slavery didn’t end in 1865. People can talk about black slave owners, etc. but the origin of the Maafa wasn’t done by black people collectively. The system of white supremacy is the origin of the Maafa and American slavery completely. Instead of some blaming black people collectively, we need to blame white supremacy for the origin of our oppression in the first place.

  • K.C.

    I think this is as good a response as one can give after such a mistake. Glad he responded in this way and realized the mistake he made. Slavery: the illness that will forever haunt America and Americans. The discussion on it and its effects has only begun.