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Why Hunting ‘Uncle Toms’ Won’t End Racism


By Gus T. Renegade

It’s not Moby Dick. It’s not Tom Sawyer. The most popular figure in the history of American literature is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom. This 19th century hero has been routinely invoked during the Baltimore upheaval of 2015. Many of the most scathing critiques of the reporting of CNN’s Don Lemon and the response of President Barack Obama referenced Stowe’s creation. Tragically, our opposition to white supremacy often replicates the narratives and concepts of our oppression.

The fundamental, recurring plot of racism is harm to Black people. Third-generation physician and author Dr. Frances Cress Welsing submits that our reflexive response to racism is not an insatiable hatred of white folks, but to blame and attack Black people. Racists condition and reward us for targeting our frustrations on Black people.

Minnesota state Rep. Ryan Winkler, a white Democrat, restricted his angst regarding the 2013 Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act to one person, Justice Clarence Thomas. Winkler branded Thomas an “Uncle Thomas.” White people model and encourage blaming Lemon, Justice Thomas, any and all Black people because they grasp the allure and impotence of this strategy. Verbally chiding or even physically disciplining “sellout” Black people –“race traitors” – does not boost the value of Black lives or vanquish racism.

Counter-racist scholar and author Neely Fuller Jr. follows the logic: “Just get rid of all these “Uncle Tom” Black people, and then all of a sudden white people with the rest of us [Blacks] who are not ‘Toms’… now we got everything going for us?”

Fuller labels this fantasy and our counterproductive predisposition to focus on and fight with other Black people as Racial Shadow Boxing. From the battle royal of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man – where white men orchestrate a homoerotic orgy featuring blindfolded Black boys pummeling each other – to boxers Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, racists celebrate, televise and are nourished by melanin-rich people blaming and battering each other.

The graves of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers and author and South African apartheid combatant Steve Biko remind us that confronting white folks is dangerous, potentially fatal. Lambasting “Uncle Toms” is not.

Whether repairing a leak at home or permanently dismantling white supremacy, getting to the source solves problems. So-called “Uncle Toms” are not the root of racism. University of Texas (Austin) professor and author Dr. Robert Jensen makes it plain: “The problem is white people.”

Because the global white race has more power than the global Black collective, they can easily force, manipulate, threaten or mandate that Black people function against our individual or collective Black interest. Steve McQueen provides an Oscar-winning illustration with 12 Years a Slave; Solomon Northup’s character is ordered to lash another enslaved Black person. White race soldiers commanded Black inmates to brutalize Mississippi warrior Fannie Lou Hamer. This is what white domination looks like.

And from the looks of things, we can’t impede the production of “Uncle Toms.” Malcolm X rebukes of 1960s “Toms” have sizable YouTube real estate, but fail to eliminate racism or the “Uncle Toms.” Fuller suggests that Black people consider and accept that racist women and racist men can produce “Uncle Toms” faster than Black people can “hold them accountable” or “Drop Squad” them.

As the world scrutinizes the Baltimore unrest and homicide of Freddie Gray, many reflect on a 1994 satiric flick where a band of militant African-Americans devote their counter-racist offensive to “Uncle Toms.” In Drop Squad, abducted “Toms” are kidnapped, stuffed into a van, not buckled in and subjected to Abu-Ghraib-style torture.

No white people were harmed in the making of this film.

… And our opposition to white supremacy often replicates the narratives and concepts of our oppression.

Fuller reports that there is an irrefutable record of disaster in every attempt where Black people have “[gone] after the ‘Toms.’” He submits this metaphor: “It’s like turning on a faucet and then grabbing a mop. You’ll be mopping forever.”

Racists flood our horizon with images of disreputable Black people. Racism makes the abuse of Black people seductive. Racism makes the abuse of Black people one of the most promoted, accepted concepts in the universe. Black people are always to be blamed, habitually convicted, occasionally executed. But always blamed. Freddie Gray broke his own spine. Al Sharpton obstructs the gates to Black liberation. Holding “Toms” accountable is familiar, might even “feel” gratifying and constructive. But the evidence is unambiguous, conclusive: putting “Uncle Toms” on blast has no impact on white folks.

Fuller concludes that, “If all [“Uncle Toms”] fell dead immediately, the condition of Black people would not change.”

Unfortunately, the concept of an “Uncle Tom” nemesis has become a potent, time devouring conviction. Undoubtedly, many readers remain convinced of the need to castigate – perhaps purge – “Toms.” Winkler and some whites may support the call to arms. Before commencing the obligatory Tom-hunt, there should be a clear articulation of what qualifies one as an “Uncle Tom.”

Fuller says that mirrors shred his enthusiasm for defining and identifying “Toms.” His reflection reminds him that unless a Black person can move uninhibited throughout the universe without answering or submitting to white folks, he or she might be a “Tom.” As this author and few readers are completely independent and defiant of whites, perhaps we should practice revolutionary patience and empathy with other Black people and ourselves. As opposed to chastising how other hostages of racism respond, we can demand Black excellence and improvement from the person in the mirror.

What people are saying

20 thoughts on “Why Hunting ‘Uncle Toms’ Won’t End Racism

  1. Dan Lee says:

    Hunting Coons such as Lemon and the like may not solve racism, but it beats the hell out of ignoring their presence in our communities. Much like scratching an itch doesn't help much but it sure feels good!

  2. right. hunting down uncle toms won't stop racism, but if we, black people, want to uplift ourselves we have to realize that there are members of our race who will sale us out and throw us under the bus just stay their places in the racist power structure. believe me I know.

  3. "Before commencing the obligatory Tom-hunt, there should be a clear articulation of what qualifies one as an Uncle Tom."

    Maybe I'm confused, but I thought the term uncle tom referred to a black person (or anyone) that sides with and helps the oppressor of their people. how many slave (and civil rights) uprisings took place that where thwarted because of backstabbing uncle toms?

    "putting them on blast" is a good way to make people aware of their presences (after-all not all uncle toms are so outwardly flamboyant with their coon-nery. "James Wormley Jones" comes to mind among others).

    "Fuller suggests that Black people consider and accept that racist women and racist men can produce “Uncle Toms” faster than Black people can “hold them accountable” or “Drop Squad” them."
    this may be true, but that doesn't mean we should not expose uncle toms for who they are. if you don't then pretty soon they will have you thinking there is something wrong with you wanting to stand up to the white supremacist power structure.
    after all, uncle toms will do what they can to convince others that the system works (massa takes good care of us), and to stop bringing up race and always complaining (why you gon and mess up this good thing we got going on here). Brother Malcolm warned us about the house negro.

  4. ^^^^^^Fist bump. That is all I can say here. Very nicely explained.

  5. We have to realize that the fight for freedom has never been a large movement anyway because most blacks will not come out of thier comfort zone. Why does the Bible record the older genaration of moses wondering in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. This is refering to today, because we have always had this problem as a people, not with just uncle toms that we think we see, but what about Toms we do not see called (wall flowers). Were you there when thay crucified my lord, and the answer is yes, becase we are always their on the sidelines not in tune with our good leaders as thay give their life, family and freedom for us, ask Jesus he will tell you, ask Dr. King he will tell you, ask Elijah he will tell you, ask Farrakhan he will tell you. We have neve agreeed with our leaders, so we have not supported them because we think we no better then them. This is a problem that can only be up-rooted by what the Bible calls (the fullness of time) or the day(s) of Judgement, when God judges the affairs of men. Most of us are really hypocrites and afraid of the enemy because we fear Death. Remember this everyone that act like a tom is really not a tom, which we will soon see.

  6. Tee D Jae says:

    I think the point is to check yourself before deeming someone a "Tom" and attacking them because doing so perpetuates the very white racist system we are attempting to replace with Justice AND we ALL "help the oppressor" in some form or fashion but aren't honest about the ways in which we help uphold this system.

  7. What happens when you are called an Uncle Tom? How do you go about correcting that? What is the criteria for a Person to become an Uncle tom? Are all black people aware of the difference between the Uncle Tom and a Sambo when they hear these terms? Can black people be trusted to discern the truth of a black person, under a system of Racism White Supremacy?

  8. So black people should ignore or be cautious toward black people who are classified as "Uncle Toms"?

  9. Harriet Tubman stated that she could have freed more slaves if only they knew they were slaves. we can free more people from the grips of white supremacy if only they knew they were "uncle toms" too. Great Article!

  10. Nolan Young says:

    We don't have to be Obsessed with Eliminating Coons.. to solve Any problem or lessen its influence you have to Understand it; Coons can and will seduce your children into lifestyles you may not condone..they can mislead you into thinking You are the problem–Not White Supremacy; you may look up to them because they are black, have Status or on TV…you just don't want to fall into a Coons trap and play with your livelihood. They should be Identified as Toxic and Dangerous since they have the mindset of a White Supremacist. you could literally end up MURDERED by someone who's Jet Black but because their Grandparent speaks Spanish or they are claiming 1/8th other….It's SAfer to Label and Identify because there are too many enemies within who can camouflage. Its far easier to "Suspect" a White Person who's ABLE to be a White Supremcists than someone who look like they can be a close Relative.

  11. I disagree with this article. Calling out Uncle Toms is extremely crucial to battling White Supremacy. White Supremacy couldn't exist without the assistance of blacks. Uncle Toms or Coons are extensions of racism who are often paid, with money or publicity, to misinform and manipulate the minds of black people. We have a duty to call them out and punish them if we can. The goal in calling out the Uncle Toms isn't to end racism but to find out who in the black community is aiding it's very existence. An ally of your enemy is your enemy. We have black enemies amongst us.

  12. We all need a lesson in what's really the definition of 'Uncle Tom'! There is a myth about the character known to many American-Afrikanz as Uncle Tom. To begin with, he was not a mythical person, although his character turned out to be. What's alarming is learning how this name became the stereotypical crusade not only against history, but Afrikan peoples identity. Find out why bein' called an 'Uncle Tom' should actually be a good thing and not what we've been duped to believe… 'Uncle Tom vs. Uncle Tom':

  13. Haseena Love says:

    I agree but at the heart of it, Neely Fully and the counter-racists brigade essentially believe that they only way to stop white people from mistreating non-white people is to keep begging white people to stop mistreating them. They don't believe in self-sufficiency or self-corrective behaviors. They don't believe in knowing oneself or history. All they believe in is asking white people to explain to them how white supremacy works even though they know that white supremacists are not going to do that. Follow their circular logic and it amounts to nothing more than "waiting on white jesus to fix it".

  14. Haseena Love Nelly Fuller believes that in order to adequately fight/counter racism, you must understand it first. His use of logic is pretty much flawless. how are you going to fix a problem without fully understanding it?

  15. Haseena Love I'd have to agree with what Kendall said about Neely Fuller. Neely Fuller tries to break down white supremacy in a logical way but he doesn't really offer a solution. The only solution to white supremacy is black empowerment and like you mentioned, self-sufficiency. As long as they own and control everything and we own close to nothing, we'll remain powerless. We need a code of conduct so we can follow an agenda for black empowerment.

  16. we as black people have to clean up our house and over look these people that does the dirty work for the white supremacist. We have to educate our children and not aspect the white people to give us anything when we start doing us the right way along with our Hebrew heritage that was robbed from us We will stop feeling a shame of ourselves and start demanding our rightful place in history. God is black.. We are black so start being and acting like the great people that we are and start teaching our children of their true heritage so adult pick up your responsibilities and teach your Hebrew kings and Queens to take their rightful place in this life.

  17. once we start doing for us everything else is just an a side track to keep us from coming together because when we come together we have power in numbers so STOP waiting for a leader we all are leader but first we must educate ourselves and build wealth for our black brother/sister but using black business stores first always first.

  18. Ralph Patmon says:

    How do you know what color God is?

  19. Ralph Patmon says:

    Hold it! Black ppl know what the hell they mean when they call another black a UNCLE TOM! We don't need to rehash Stowe's lit. Tom's should be called out, and it's Damn beneficial to do so. They confuse and muddle the struggle of the majority of black people that's fighting a long overdue justice and dignity denied them. Uncle Tom's that previously may be respected in the community should be exposed for the obstructionists they are. Exposing them, not to whites, but to other blacks, effectively counters their device rhetoric within the community. It renders less effective and puts a spotlight on them as an agent, wittingly or unwittingly, of the oppressive system that opposes them.

  20. Kevin Bailey says:

    Uncle Tom term itself is racist. The left uses tortured logic in attempt to distance the phrase Uncle Tom from its vocabulary as being racist; yet it's extremely racist. It's legacy is based in black culture, it has always been directed at blacks specifically whom are deemed subservient to whites who step outside the circle of a defined black narrative. It's racist precisely because it means a black isn't staying in their place, the collective black races definition of what place is. Any black that doesn't stay within black orthodoxy and instead chooses different orthodoxy to lift the culture, say by using positive role modeling and other common sense solutions, risks potentially getting this label. It's racist to the extreme. No individual of a race should be boxed into a defined, politically policed cultural expression of that race, or be vilified for self determination and expression if it does not fit within an orthodoxy of that race. To do so is racism at the extreme.

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