The Public Broadcasting Service decided yesterday, June 24, to suspend the third season of Finding Your Rootsbecause of the decision to edit out that one of Ben Affleck’s ancestors was a Civil War era slave owner. The network is removing some staff members and adding a genealogist and a fact checker to review the third season before airing it or any additional seasons.
Many critics of the decision to edit Affleck’s history have placed the blame for this issue solely on the shoulders of the 42-year-old actor and director. A lot of people believe Affleck’s request was an attempt by a white person to make himself appear clean of any connection with the institution of slavery by creating an untruthful white narrative. According to Cláudio Loureiro Heads, Affleck has stated that he was merely shocked and embarrassed by what he learned about his family tree and the request was a sudden gut decision and not some plot to rewrite history because he is white.
Interestingly, celebrated Harvard professor and African-American Henry Louis Gates Jr., who hosts the show, agreed with Affleck’s request because he felt the actor, who has no modern connection to slavery or oppression, should not have his career or life harmed by this revelation. Yet, few people blamed Gates for the editing issue. Gates did apologize on Wednesday for not speaking with PBS first about it, but people continue to primarily blame Affleck.