You are familiar with the term, it has been used as the other ultimate insult to Black folk – ‘uncle tom’. It has been around ever since the character, Uncle Tom, made his appearance in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin‘.
Side note: The Uncle Tom character in the novel has long been debated as whether or not he was a noble hero or the proverbial ‘uncle tom’. This article ignores the debate and focuses on the use of the term today.
The term uncle tom is generally used to insult African Americans whose political views or allegiances are viewed by critics as being detrimental to other blacks. In addition to seeming as being subservient to White America.
It is time to revisit that definition.
Why not add the word “actions”?
It would now be read like this – the term is generally used to insult African Americans whose political views, allegiances, or actions are viewed by critics as being detrimental to other blacks.
That opens up a new can of uncle tommery (yeah, I just made that up). If you add the word “actions” to the general idea, then you start seeing a lot of Black folks that are doing things that a detrimental to other blacks.
We tend to harbor this huge amount of disdain for those who “sell out” or “live to serve White folks”, but what about those people who are destroying our community and reinforcing negative images?
Yeah, you know I had to bring them up. Now I have to say that I am a hip hop head and love the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Common, and underground cats like Jean Grae, MF Doom, Jazzy Jeff, and of course the beat mastery of J-Dilla.
Even though there are rappers that are producing phenomenal music, there are also those who are producing crap. You know, the music filled with the usual talking points: violence, sex, alcohol, and misogyny.
No one with a straight face can say music like that impacts the community in such a massively positive way that you would start reciting poems every morning about rainbows.
So with that said, why aren’t rappers who are negative influences regarded as uncle toms as well?
Yeah, you know them – the carbon copies of what you see in music videos. The ones who think respect is gained by pulling a gun on someone or fighting someone over shoes. Those who think that the only way to make it in this world is through the misery of other Black folks.
Yep, you guessed it – shouldn’t they be considered uncle toms as well?
I’ve had a gun pulled on me twice in my life time and it is not fun. The first time, the guy got a chain and the second time the group (yes, group) got about fifty cents and a hat. I was a teenager when those instances happened and I was robbed by other teenagers. (Side note: what makes broke teens think they are going to get a dope pay day by robbing other broke teens??)
Those who feel the need to recite rap lyrics in public to feel ‘hard’ – and similar situations
This happened to me the other day on the subway. This dude was sitting a few seats down from me and was listening to his Ipod. The guy barely knew the lyrics he was reciting, but he knew the buzz words handily (the cuss words, anything talking about how he is going to rob someone, etc.)
It was all a show to let people know around him that he was ‘hard’. That he was not someone ‘to be messed with’.
Whenever this happens I just want to yell at the person and tell them to shut up because it makes you angry and embarrassed at the same time. If you are not familiar with this scenario, rent the Chris Rock movie, “I Think I Love My Wife”, and wait for the elevator scene where the guy gets on rapping and Chris Rock, in embarrassment, moves to the back of the elevator.
Yeah, so people who choose to spread the buffoonery – why aren’t they regarded as uncle toms?
I can go on and on listing things that could be seen as uncle tomish, instead, I am going to leave you to do that in the comments.
I know there are social factors at work when it comes to the behavior of my brothas and sistahs. However, there were social factors at work 50 years ago and we chose to enlighten and empower ourselves. Why can’t that happen today?
Change happens when you choose to make change yourself. If we choose to stay in the same mindset, we will never move forward.
Kirshan Murphy is owner/editor of NubianWaves.com