A modern-day version of that program is "Finding Your Roots," the latest in a brilliant series about race, identity and heritage hosted by Harvard Professor
In the aftermath of protests in
While his earlier series dealt mainly with the roots of famous African-Americans, in some cases tracing them back to slave ancestors, this latest series is more of a potpourri.
In the first episode we meet horror novelist
King's father walked out on his family when Stephen was two and never returned.
In the second episode (
"The story of America," notes Gates, "is a patchwork of stories like these." This is why racism is so incredibly stupid. To hate someone because of race -- or any other attribute for that matter -- is to hate, if not one's self, then one's ancestors. We are all "mixed." There are no "pure-bred humans." Like wildflowers, we can be seen in many different hues, shapes and origins.
Gates says some scientists believe that great athletes like King, Jeter and Lobo inherit certain traits in their DNA, giving them advantages others don't have. While he doesn't deny the role of DNA, he concludes with something more profound: "The source of their greatness was not simply in their DNA, but also in the values that their ancestors passed down to them, even in ways they had never known."
Isn't the passing down of immutable values something that has been lost in our "tolerant" culture? Doesn't their loss explain the cause of so much social turmoil?
"Finding Your Roots" should be assigned homework for every child. It should also be watched by adults because it contains the essence of a healing balm that could, if we let it, repair some of the damage caused by the way we look at ourselves and other people. We aren't -- or shouldn't be -- defined by race, gender, class, politics, or anything else.
A common humanity is what separates us from plants and animals. It should not separate us from each other.