What do you do if you uncover unsavoury facts about your ancestral history? How would you feel if you discovered members of your family were slave owners? Or what if you found out your grandfather was a Nazi commander?
Recently the actor Ben Affleck willing participated in a show called Finding Your Roots, where producers trace your family lineage. During this process Affleck discovered that his family history is tied to slavery and he asked to have this information omitted from the show due to shame.
Jennifer Teege, biracial author of My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, was adopted and discovered that her birth mother’s father was a Nazi commander. She discovered this fact by stumbling upon a book that her birth mother had written about him. She didn’t even know her mother had written a book about the subject and she later discovered her mother didn’t share the book or the details because of shame.
When we discover these things about our roots, we need to realise that the acts of others regardless of whether or not they’re family are not our acts. We can acknowledge this information but not own it and take it on as ours. It is important though to be aware of all of the feelings that arise when you make these discoveries; whether its anger, disappointment, shame, sadness etc. We must feel those feelings and acknowledge them so we can move on and leave the past in the past where it belongs.