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2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Ben Affleck Wrong for Trying to Hide Slave-Owning Ancestry

Batfleck
Batfleck

Ben Affleck, an actor, filmmaker, and the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, recently demanded that PBS hide the fact that he is a descendant of a slave-owning ancestor on “Finding Your Roots,” as revealed by hacked Sony emails.
The hacked Sony emails were from July 22, 2014, and are now available on Wikileaks. In the emails, it is alleged that the show’s host Henry Louis Gates Jr. asked Sony’s chief Michael Lynton what he should do. He stated, “one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors—the fact that he owned slaves. Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?” Lynton replied to Gates’ email, pointing out that “on the doc the big question is who knows that the material is in the doc and is being taken out. I would take it out if no one knows, but if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky.”
Even though the two never mentioned Affleck’s name, they called him “megastar” and “batman,” which may have hinted that it was him, as at the time he was filming “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It is clear that censoring of information is against PBS’s policy, but they eventually censored out their findings.
Looking at it as a person of color, I did not see it as necessary to edit out the fact that he is the descendant of a slave owner. I can even see why he wanted this to be done—he does humanitarian work in the Eastern Congo of Africa; he might have feared that people would have looked at him differently and possibly think he’s doing it because he simply is ashamed of what his ancestor did, which I don’t think is a bad motive.
The fact that he is a “megastar,” as described by Gates in his email, simply tells one that it is because of his status in society that they decided to compromise or bend the rules for him. If he was an average Joe they wouldn’t have given his demands a second thought and would have told him straight up that it was against the show’s policy and that they were unable to do so.
Despite what your ancestors have done, you do not need to take the fall for them or try to hide what they did in hopes that it doesn’t backfire on you. What they did is on them and not on you. Personally, the fact that his ancestor was a slave owner does not affect how I see or saw him. I am in no way justifying or condoning what his ancestor did, but I don’t think it would have been such a big deal if PBS went forward with it. After all, his humanitarian work doesn’t seem to be a result of the actions of his ancestor, as it looks like Affleck did not know of them. My advice to him and everyone is to live your life and not let things of the past affect how you live in the present. The past is the past, it should not be hidden or changed but simply accepted for what it is and moved on from.