Friday, January 06, 2006

The Roots of Marriage

Photo of less than perfect family man on right

Wow!  Thanks to the Daou Report I came across this op ed in USA Today Roland Warren on African-American Marriage.  I’m fine with the premise that at least in this culture it’s better for kids if their parents are in a stable marriage.  It’s the Roots part of Warren’s argument that threw me.  

Kunta Kinte escaped his master several times only to be caught each time. But one thing finally caused him to change course: his marriage and the birth of his daughter. Kunta "jumped the broom" with Bell, the plantation's cook. The ritual was used to formalize the husband-wife bond, since slaves could not legally marry. Bell soon gave birth to their first daughter, named Kizzy, an African word for "stay put." Kunta decided that creating a legacy of hope for his family was more important than escape.”

Warren can’t really be serious.  Is he actually implying that “marriage” helped Kunta Kinte stop trying to escape or resist slavery and that it thus made him a better man?  Holy Spartacus!

I know that some argue that living the “straight life” is a form of slavery, but Warren may have had a few too many dinners with Trent Lott.  Some of us grew up believing that it’s perfectly honorable to resist slavery for yourself and those you love, rather than to “make the best of it.”  Perhaps he really did mean to imply that fatherhood and family life were a fair tradeoff for being chattel? Whether one works in the house of Goldman Sachs (Warren's former employer) or some other field, slavery still can't be justified.  

Criticize those who escape to drugs, crime, other women, surfing the internet all you want, but I gotta draw the line when it comes to implying that trying to escape or resist slavery is ever a bad thing. I would mention though that Warren's loose Roots talk may inadvertently make for a very strong argument for gay marriage :}.

I have no problems with the basic goals of the National Fatherhood Initiative, but Warren’s Roots argument is both embarrassing and strangely reveals a lot about his sensitivity to African-American history and the legacy of slavery itself.  I say this fully aware that Roland Warren is African-American and that I’m not.  Warren may need to take a look at another Haley book, the Autobiography of Malcolm X.


At 1/07/2006 07:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been years since I read "Roots", but I always thought that Kunta Kinte stoped trying to escape because his foot was chopped in half. He could no longer run and had no alternative but to settle down and make the best of his situation.

At 1/07/2006 10:35:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

You know, I think you're right and I guess that makes his op ed even stranger. I'm a little surprised that there was so little comment about something that appeared in USA Today.

At 1/09/2006 02:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saying whatever and not having done even the slightest bit of due-diligence by either the author or the publication has become a national pastime.

So what if Kinte stops trying to escape because of his foot? Say its marriage because it fits into your pseudo-scientific explaination of the problems of African Americans (as a whole). Whats better is it throws blame back onto the African slaves as opposed to the European masters -- see, if you only got married -- all your problems would be solved.

At 1/09/2006 02:43:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Of course, there are some descendants of Kunte Kinte that have made the trade off worth it at least for me :}.

I don't know why letters like Roland Warren's keep getting a platform in major publications. I find the subtext of what he had to say deeply disturbing, yet it just slipped by countless readers apparently.

At 1/10/2006 06:23:00 AM, Blogger scottmcrocker said...

Thanks for your post on my blog. I think what Warren was saying was that his wife and daughter needed a husband around -- even though they were enslaved. I certainly don't think he was saying that they shouldn't try to escape, but that Kunta shouldn't have just escaped by himself and left his wife and daughter to fend for themselves. I'm sure he would have encouraged them to escape as a family. But I think the greater emphasis he was trying to make is that there seems to be a pattern among some men (of any ethnic group) of leaving their families behind. His main point was that men should take the responsibility for their roles as husbands and fathers.

At 1/10/2006 09:35:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

thanks for your comments here. I would agree that that is probably what Warren meant to say. For instance, he does mention that marriage was illegal between slaves (I assume because it was an impediment to selling parts of families).
I'm not sure that's how the letter read though.

Due to one of the comments here, I went back to look at the "plot" of Roots. Kunta Kinte stops running literally because he is caught and has his foot cut off. He is then bought by a "kinder" master, so when Kunta Kinte actually marries, he can't run.

For those in slavery or in the midst of genocide, the decision to procreate is extremely complex. At one level it is an affirmation of life itself. At another, it is bringing incredible pain and sorrow to those you love. I'm simply grateful that I've never been in that position. iirc, there is a scene in roots where at least one member of the family struggles with the choice.

I personally believe that all adult members of the family have a responsibility to the family as a unit, to care for one another and the children who are part of that family. The members of what became the "Haley" family do in fact do their best to do this.

It's worth a mention that Kunta Kinte is Moslem and that it might have been Moslem family values that passed to the Haley family.


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