“Nightly Show” host Larry Wilmore and his guest panelists had some interesting points to make Monday (April 20) regarding the news that Ben Affleck requested PBS and Henry Louis Gates Jr. edit out a slave-owning ancestor for his episode of “Finding Your Roots.”
In a segment cheekily titled “It turns out Ben Affleck’s ancestors may have owned mine,” Wilmore posits that the “real controversy” isn’t that Affleck’s ancestors owned slaves, it’s “that he didn’t want us to know about it.”
Other celebrities have had this same type of revelation happen to them. Anderson Cooper had a slave-owning ancestor, and he said it filled him with a sense of shame, but as Wilmore says, it’s about “owning it.” So why did Affleck not want it to air?
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Panelist Philip Galanes suggests that part of the problem is that nobody says “no” to Affleck, which is something Gates alluded to in his email. He thought Affleck was receiving “very bad advice” on this matter. So when Affleck (or one of his people) raised the idea of not airing the slave-owning ancestor part of his history, nobody ever told him that was the wrong move.
Galanes suggests that someone should have had the presence of mind to say, “One, you’re gonna get caught and we’re all gonna look stupid. And two, isn’t the much better story that his triple-grandfather was a slave trader, and then by the time we get to his mother’s generation she was a freedom marcher in Selma?”
“I don’t think you can knock off slave-owner by marching for civil rights,” says panelist Mike Yard, who adds, “I’m not mad at him, I’m mad at Henry Louis Gates for not putting it on [TV].”