What is an Uncle Tom?

The term Uncle Tom as an epithet has never made much sense to me. If you’ve ever read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, you know that Uncle Tom was the protagonist, a slave who was martyred by his master when he refused to give up the location of some runaway slaves. Harriet Beecher Stowe was not responsible for the parodies and adaptations that proliferated after her novel gained widespread success, and it was from those parodies that the term Uncle Tom derived its negative connotation:

The popular negative connotation of “Uncle Tom” has largely been attributed to numerous derivative works inspired by Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the decade after its release, rather than the original novel itself, whose title character is a more positive figure. These works lampooned and distorted the portrayal of Uncle Tom with politically loaded overtones.

It is a bitter irony that Stowe herself had no control over the development of the term Uncle Tom, and that the descendants of slaves in the United States have whole-heartedly adopted the negative sense of the label, in contradiction to its original sense and in agreement with the slaves’ most ardent oppressors.

For that reason, I think it would be best if the term Uncle Tom were never used. It has lost any meaningful content, and has instead become a catchall to criticize black people who won’t toe the politically correct line.

It’s as if black people are not allowed to think for themselves. Have you ever noticed that black people are always referred to in movements, groups, and collectives? Commentators act like black people only have power in numbers—united they stand and all that. So movements, parties, and coalitions are always trying to get “the black vote,” as if the black population is not made up of individuals. And black “leaders” have (wittingly or unwittingly) capitulated to this dehumanizing, collectivizing paradigm by adopting the negative sense of the term Uncle Tom. Because that term is a herding term. It’s a linguistic sheep dog that attempts to bring errant individuals back within the fold. And it works.

For that reason, I found it quite puzzling when Rush Limbaugh used the term to describe the (presumably black) Democrats who voted for Republican Thad Cochran in the Mississippi Senate primaries. For one, I don’t know if a white man can get away with using the term. For another, it’s hilarious that black people voting for a Republican are being called Uncle Toms by a white conservative. I would have expected the NAACP to drop that bomb. But no. But I don’t think the term really fits, no matter what sense you apply to it.

In the negative sense, these black Democrats have not really shown subservience to their oppressors or betrayed the commonly accepted “black cause.” It is a sign of the deep rift in the Republican party that Rush Limbaugh would even say that. And in the positive sense, of course, these black Democrats have not been Uncle Toms. Because they weren’t willing to sacrifice convenience and comfort for freedom.

Stowe’s Uncle Tom is truly a humble rogue—a man willing to die alone for his beliefs. He doesn’t live on anyone’s plantation. He keeps his job from honor, and he refuses to betray his comrades from an equal sense of honor. He is an individual. Politicians on both sides of the aisle don’t want black individuals. They want a black herd. And I fail to understand why black people are willing to submit to that yoke.

20 responses

    • So being capable of independent thought and being self reliant while adhering to our Constitution rather than being a black democrat lemming groveling at the feet of racist white Democrats makes you an Uncle Tom. Put my picture right next to his MrMalibuBarbieLABobEfromNYC you little puke.

      • Do you believe that 97% of blacks are just too stupid to realize the lily white party of X confederate states is the party that truly has their best interests at heart?

        • No, Just that the Democratic propaganda machine wholly aided and abetted by the commie press has done a masterful job of convincing blacks that life under Dem rule is as good as it gets and they are so brainwashed , they won’t even consider that an alternative exists.

  1. Any African American who votes democratic could be called an Uncle Tom.The whites control the democratic party and have successfully destroyed the core of the African American family.Just do a little history research.

    • ……your asking them to seek the facts and the truth? …….oh no….they’ll have none of that……..

    • That’s ONLY about 97% of them! How could blacks be soooo stupid not to realize the lily white party of X confederate states has their bests interests at heart? BTW, the head of the democratic party happens to be black.

    • I agree, it is one of many among American Classics. Unfortunately, most Americans no longer read. Too many spend their time with the boob-tube, texting, with I-phones, I-pads, playing video games, and engulfed in the internet. Reading a book has become passe. To the posters herein, for your amusement, ask your friends, family members, co-workers, how many “serious books” have they read in the last year.

  2. Although I didnt vote for Obama either time I had a slim hope he would help the Blacks have a person to look up to and become better citizens in our larger cities and such. And know I am not racist at all, but see that some Blacks have a problem with White leaders. Sadly it went the other way, instead of bringing us together under one for all and all for one. I took a wait and see attitude and I for one think the administration has been one big failure! It doesnt matter about skin color, its matters on the right actions of a president to act for the good of all, not a select few to win votes!

  3. Finally someone who can read a book! I have been trying to explain this to people for YEARS! The voting “Democrat only” black population regardless of the outcome for their own are the Sambos’ and Quimbos’ of today! They are the slaves that will abuse and denigrate their fellow slaves if they dare to “come off of the plantation” or buck the plantation’s bottom line.

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