Viewpoint: Don’t ignore your history

Maleesa BW1By Maleesa Johnson
Copy desk chief

Ben Affleck, Oscar-winning actor and future Batman, is yet another victim of Wikileaks. A set of private emails between between Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton and “Finding Your Roots” host Henry Louis Gates Jr. revealed a controversial request by Affleck.

Finding Your Roots is a PBS documentary that delves into the ancestry of guests on the show, such as Anderson Cooper and Stephen King. Guests often find out a lot they didn’t know about their heritage. Affleck was no exception when he found out some of his ancestors were slave owners. He reportedly asked one of the producers to leave that information out of the episode. This request was made evident in leaked emails via Wikileaks.

Slavery is wrong. None of us would like to hear that our ancestors took part in this shameful and sinful practice. Though for many of us in the South, it is the hard truth.

Attempting to censor the past, however, is pointless. We all have skeletons in our closet. It would be almost impossible to find someone who is proud of their entire ancestry’s actions. Some people only have to look back one generation to get embarrassed. That does not negate the fact that our heritage is a huge part of us.

I cannot blame Affleck for wanting to cover up that part of his ancestry. It is nothing to be proud of. PBS left it out, but not because of Affleck’s request. In a statement to CBS News, Gates said the program chose to highlight other ancestors who had more interesting stories. However, Affleck’s attempt to censor his own history has caused the skeletons in his closet to become that much more public.

We do not get to decide who our family is. If anyone gets upset with Affleck for things that are far out of his control, those people are absurd. However, it would not be out of the question to get a little upset at his attempt to mask his history. I can see why he did it, but it only made him look bad. Unfortunately, though it is 2015, racism is still a large issue. My guess is that Affleck feared his ancestry would upset his image and perhaps link him to racism. Some people may be crazy enough to do that, but losing a crazy fan or two shouldn’t hurt someone like Affleck.

The whole situation boils down to two truths: we can’t control our heritage and we shouldn’t attempt to hide it. Would I go around bragging about my slave-owning ancestors if I had them? Absolutely not. That’s nothing to be proud of. However, I wouldn’t try to clean up history either.

The wonderful thing about history is that we can learn from it. Our ancestors made mistakes and committed wrongs.That’s true for every human.

Knowing these mistakes and owning up to them in place of our ancestors can help us grow and keep us from repeating them.

Affleck’s tiptoe routine will do neither of those.

Maleesa Johnson is a junior journalism major from Round Rock. She is the copy desk chief and a regular columnist for the Lariat.