The Roots of Ayn Rand

When not writing articles, essays or novels, Ayn Rand also enjoyed visiting the cinema and reading other people’s novels. She frequently referenced popular culture in her non-fiction writing: from discussing an episode of Twilight zone (The Eye of the Beholder) to talking about her experience of watching Dr. No when it was released. Today I am going to talk about her little known critique on the hit TV series Roots. Roots is a miniseries aired in 1977, it is based on a novel by Alex Haley detailing his genealogy (largely disputed on the accuracy but we will come back to this point). It chronicled from colonial area when his ancestor was a a slave to Post civil of freedom.

While the story is mainly fictional, many treated it as real. Haley claimed that he traced his ancestry back to Kunta Kinte the protagonist however, there are no factual evidence to back up the claim. The story also portrays a hateful theme of “all white people are evil” kind of narrative which the settlers were seen as rapists and liars. So Rand discussed this negative stereotype in Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q and A which pointed out a contradiction on Haley’s African Supremacy: If all the historical accounts were factual then he was a descendent of a rapist (Tom Lea who raped Kizzy and gave birth to George, Haley’s great great grandfather) then he inevitably needed to give thanks to this rapist who produced the possibility of giving birth to him.

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

Racism claims that the content of a man’s mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but itscontent) is inherited; that a man’s convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical factors beyond his control. This is the caveman’s version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.

Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.

The Virtue of Selfishness, 126

Racism is one of the most irrational concepts still thriving today, Rand has always been a big activist to challenge the notion of judging a person base on their appearance rather than their rationality (see more in The Virture of Selfishness and Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution). But today racism is worse than ever, the racists have no changed their tactics- using violence, viture signalling and lying to distort the truth. Are there discrimination based on race? Yes, but announcing your victimhood and expecting magic to erase all your problems will help no one. Do something to change the perception and arming yourself with success instead of being a stereotype is the only way to bring rationality to the table and end this madness since the very beginning of humanity.


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