In part one I said that Uncle Toms are the greatest threat to black America. In 2017 Uncle Tom might take the form of Dr. Dre on Monday, T.D Jakes on Tuesday, Future on Thursday and morph into Very Smart Brothas by week’s end. Even I, the writer, am guilty. In his autobiography Malcolm X indicated that he could stomach a conservative racist more than an Uncle Tom. Malcolm understood the danger. If black people are to achieve true revolution and freedom, we must eliminate Tom, wherever he might be found.
The trouble in 2017 is that we don’t understand what makes one an Uncle Tom and we resist the notion that each of us, woke as we believe ourselves to be, have some Uncle Tom in us. Again, I myself am not exempt.
The Uncle Tom, for our purpose, is any person who identifies as black but actively or passively undermines black power; black power= black freedom and self determination. This can be momentary or a permanent condition, for some. Holding conservative views does not make one an Uncle Tom. Having liberal views –which I do– does not make one aligned with black power, either. In fact, the most dangerous Uncle Toms in 2017 happen to be liberals/Democrats. The danger we pose is that we think ourselves woke because of our liberalism. When our lives are misaligned with the ideals of black power and independence, however, we have to be convinced that we are in fact Uncle Toms.
By virtue of American citizenship all black people wrestle with some level of internal Tom. Indeed, it is often a necessary evil for survival. In the 1940’s it may have been necessary to buy from white folks to literally escape death. Survival. In today’s world Van Jones went from basically condemning Trump voters on election night as bigots to now traveling the country, holding town halls with Trump supporters to explore their “viewpoints.” Again, survival. But black power is beyond survival and to attain it we must be mature enough to reflect on our level of Uncle Tom and work to kill that son of a bitch. Are you bold enough to join this collective journey and identify which variety of Tom lives in you?
The Hood Uncle Tom
Atlanta rapper “Future” is addicted to misogyny. His lyrics ooze with disrespect toward women. From his treatment of Ciara, his ex, to his habit of impregnating various women, it is clear he believes black women are disposable. When he’s not bringing down black women in lyrical form, he makes video games to do so. It cannot be too emphatically stated that any man who does not uplift black women is squarely against black progress and ultimately, black power. He is an Uncle Tom.
Future has a large platform as an entertainer but does little to further black independence with it. Future makes beats, babies and at his best hands out turkeys to senior citizens around Thanksgiving. None of this amounts to black power. Contrast Future with LeBron James. James leveraged his value to launch other black men around him like Maverick Carter and Rich Paul in business (both from humble beginnings). These men are now, independent of LeBron James, moguls and their success is a reminder that black people do not lack talent but often do lack opportunity. James is also fronting the cost to send thousands of children from his hometown to college for four years. LeBron is using his platform to expand opportunity to black children and entrepreneurs, thus extending black power. Future and other black entertainers should take note.
The hood Uncle Tom thinks he, of all people, is down. He “keeps it real” at all times. He wears his blackness (or what he believes is blackness) proudly and loudly. When this Tom spits rhymes he believes himself to be giving voice to the pain in the hood. He believes this, somehow, makes him a freedom fighter. But Thomas fails to realize that he often chooses to only give voice to the most negative aspects of hood life. Thomas will tell you that he only raps about violence because that is his reality. Strange how people in the hood hug each other far more than they shoot each other but Thomas scarcely gives voice to that.
When this Tom makes it as an athlete he spends his money on that which is temporal. He, unlike LeBron James, allows the usual sports agents and business managers to profit from his performance — people who care nothing about the state of black institutions. This Tom, like Lil Wayne, allows his celebrity to blind him to the frailty of the black masses, feeling that he is distant from their struggle. He has frequent run-ins with the law but never with organizations striving for black power. He is simply a hood Uncle Tom.
This Tom exists everyday in the hood. He is unknown to the world but like Future, Lil Wayne and a host of other personalities who think they’re keeping it real, they choose the worst elements of street life to personify, even if those elements are not a true reflection of their daily lives. They choose to self-destruct, even when they do not have to. While many in the hood are unfortunate victims of circumstance, the hood Uncle Tom chooses to tear himself, his women and ultimately his people down. He is not keeping it real or advancing black power, he’s just an Uncle Tom.