Ben Affleck has expressed his embarrassment about his roots, that one of his ancestors owned slaves; but, he also sees something good in his roots, despite all of the controversy that has developed about them. While none of us can choose our ancestors nor be responsible for their actions, Ben Affleck at least has come to realize that having an ancestor who owned slaves is a part of America’s history and legacy that should never be forgotten.
All of the talk about Ben Affleck’s ancestor, Benjamin Cole, has led to a lot of discussions about slavery, and the many evils of it. While finding out that an ancestor held slaves can be very embarrassing, Affleck found out that it is better to face up to the embarrassing facts instead of asking them to not be made public.
The news that actor Ben Affleck asked PBS to exclude information about Benjamin Cole from an episode that they did of Finding Your Roots came out after Wikileaks published Sony documents that had been hacked. The subject of the documents was a back-and-forth dialogue between Affleck and PBS, with Affleck requesting that the show not mention the fact that one of his ancestors had been a slave owner.
As a result of Ben Affleck’s request, now WNET public television in New York and PBS are conducting an investigation to find out if any censorship took place. Affleck’s request, which he thought was private at the time, has resulted in a major controversy and investigation now that Wikileaks published the Sony documents.
Ben Affleck stated in a Facebook post, explaining his viewpoint about the whole matter, that the PBS series Finding Your Roots was not a news show, but rather one that was meant to be entertaining, while also revealing facts about the family trees of celebs. When he learned that one of his distant relatives owned slaves, he wrote in the Facebook post that the “thought left a bad taste in my mouth,” adding that he “was embarrassed.”
Ben Affleck wrote that he knew from the beginning, as he put it, “knew going in,” that the decision about what went into the program was up to PBS, not himself. However, he wrote that he thought any input he might have was all a part of what he called “the collaborative creative process.” Affleck wrote that whatever the ultimate outcome, he was “proud to have participated.”
Affleck added that he had assumed that the show would not be “dishonest,” but that it could still be about his family without mentioning Benjamin Cole. In other words — Affleck’s own — he had believed that Finding Your Roots would “not look to include things you think would embarrass your family.”
The information about Benjamin Cole, Affleck’s slave owning ancestor, was not included in the Finding Your Roots episode about the Batman actor’s ancestors. However, Affleck wrote that the reason was not because he had lobbied against it, but rather was because the information that had been discovered was not very complete, that “there wasn’t much detail – a name and no details.”
Now, Ben Affleck, while still being embarrassed about his roots, realizes that having “the issue of slavery,” as he put it, included in the episode could serve as an important teaching moment. Especially when, in Affleck’s words, “we are, as a nation, still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery.”
Ben Affleck mentioned in the Facebook post that he regrets his “initial thoughts” to not have his slave owning ancestor be a part of the PBS program, Finding Your Roots. He still does not like it that Benjamin Cole is one of his ancestors, but he wrote that he is “happy that aspect of our country’s history is being talked about.”
Written By Douglas Cobb