Since I have written several times praising last season's Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and alerting readers to his new show Finding Your Roots, I feel that I must comment upon my disappointment with the latter. Finding Your Roots is a study of race and slavery that is thinly disguised as a genealogy program. If it were presented and titled as a exploration of American racial issues, I would have no complaint. In fact, the show has presented issues that I found very thought-provoking. But, it bothers me that it is marketed without being honest about its agenda.
The show describes itself as follows: "The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.. . . "
So far, most episodes have found their way to the question of race and slavery. I tend to think that Gates sought to get his messages across to a viewership of genealogists who might otherwise not have tuned in. The Kyra Sedgewick/Kevin Bacon episode in particular seemed like an ambush and was an attempt to extract a mea culpa from them for their ancestors' possession of slaves.
If the program is about race in America today and yesterday, then I think the program presents these issues in a thought-provoking and intelligent manner. It has made me think. But, please, just package it honestly!