What the hell a book review on a hip hop blog? YoRapper you crazy for this one.
Long story short, I haven’t read a fictional book in about two years -which is mad ghetto if you ask me. Coincidentally, I received a gift certificate at the big bookstore for my birthday. Instead of getting a two year subscription to XXL mag -which would affirm my ghettoness- I decided I wanted to get an actual novel that was mad long (so I could get my monies worth) and that was considered a classic.
I happen to come across a book with the guy from Reading Rainbow (Levar Burton) in chains across the front cover -the name of the book was called Roots. I knew Roots was somewhat significant from the Dave Chappele skit he did and I can recall a Fresh Prince episode where Will said something about Kunta Kinte getting his foot cut off. But aside from that because I’m from a younger generation, I had no clue about the real cultural significance of the book and subsequent TV miniseries.
Roots which was released in 1976 has easily become one of the greatest books about the African-American and White-American experience. The book has gone on to sell millions and millions of copies and was made by PBS into a movie which still holds the record for largest TV audience for a miniseries. This book fundamentally changed how Black people saw themselves within the American diaspora and how White Americans saw themselves intertwined in the African-American story. Okay, enough of the back story, is the book still classic some 30 years later and what did it teach my dumbass?
Of course, it’s a classic! This book is like Ready To Die of the book world. There should be no Black person in America over the age of 25 that hasn’t read Roots, just as there shouldn’t be a hip hop head who hasn’t heard Ready To Die. And not only Black folk should read this book, everyone should, because it really shows how all of us are linked some how and to of course warn us to never repeat the abomination that was slavery.
Now two things this book taught me is that African slaves did have a history and were educated prior to being captured and brought to America. They did have their own culture, their own traditions and their own religion -which was far from Christian. I particularly enjoyed the irony of how the main character, Kunta Kinte, despised Christianity, writing it off as a pagan religion only for his successive generations to become ardently Christian. I reveled in all of the African education because most Black people in America are so proud to be Christian and have white names not knowing how they became Christian and where their name came from -let alone even relate to Africa.
A second thing this book taught me was that not all white people during slavery times were evil, baby eating, devils as many Africans thought they were. The Massas if you will, had different degrees of evilness ranging from serial killer/rapists to you can’t go in my bedroom. There is also the fact that the abolitionist that is the people that were against slavery were made of mainly White Northerners who gave their lives to end slavery in the civil war. Though it should be pointed out they weren’t all for Black/White integration, but rather for sending the slaves back to Africa.
So why should you read Roots you ask? Aside from the fact that the only thing you read is YoRapper and XXL’s Critical Beatdown, reading Roots will give you a truly enriched sense of self. Now what the hell is that and why do you want that you ask? You see the best way to forever enslave a people is to have them forget about their history. You erase someone’s past and they will have no future. By not reading Roots, you as an American, are missing out on a vital part of American history that helped build this great nation and ultimately you as a person. ‘Nuff said.
Hey if your too lazy to read the book (which you can get for $4.99 from Amazon) and learn about your history, you can always get the TV miniseries on DVD.
Here’s a clip from the Roots miniseries.