The modern-day Uncle Tom doesn’t necessarily vote conservative. Tommy in 2017 has reinvented himself as a Lavar Ball hater. Rather than take massa’s crumbs in the form of a shoe endorsement deal, the Ball family opted for true ownership and decided to build their own shoe brand, the Big Baller Brand (Triple B). Rather than say “hell yeah!” the fraternity of Phi-Tom-Phi is determined to tear down Triple B. I suppose it’s more comfortable to stay in the house than do the work to liberate yourself. While I do not expect many Uncle Toms to join our pursuit of black power, I do ask that they keep quiet as we leave the plantation.
Lavar Ball is trying to teach us a lesson. You may not love his delivery but I urge you to stop fighting the messenger and listen to the actual message. What has always been isn’t necessarily better than what could be. Athletes have, for generations, fought to capitalize more on the economic value which they create. LeBron James is better compensated than Magic Johnson was during his playing days for that reason. Still, star athletes have yet to fully capitalize on the value of their brands, allowing Nike and others to reap the benefits and that is the point: why shouldn’t they reap more from their value? More importantly, in a league that is majority-black, why do NBA players consistently benefit less from their brands than their branders? We as consumers are part of the problem.
Branding is everything. A product or service sells, in large part, due to the strength of its brand. Is Tide empirically better than True detergent? No but you trust the brand, having never done an actual scientific experiment to validate its claims. One product will actually make a huge impact on black unemployment and the other clearly does not, that much we know. Still, far too many black people are comfortable on the Tide plantation, consequences be damned. The brand only maintains its strength because we decide to give our strength to uphold it. In the same way, if we decide to pay $200 for a pair of shoes it’s worth $200. There is no law of nature behind it, simply our consent. In a world where black people live in a constant state of rage, it is beyond comprehension that we continue to give our consent to everything that maintains the status quo. That is what Lavar Ball is challenging.
Are you an “Uncle Tom” because you choose not to buy Triple B products? Not at all. There are any number of reasons as to why someone would or would not buy the millions of products offered to them. What determines your level of internal Tom is the approach taken as a consumer. Do you approach Triple B looking for a reason to support or seeking reasons not to? That is the critical question. This discussion is much larger than Lavar Ball. Whether the topic is banking black or buying laundry detergent from a black owned company, your approach is everything. The modern-day Uncle Tom will always seek reasons not to empower their own community and by doing so, continues to support their oppression. Ask yourself, how much Tom is in you?
**No one can oppress you unless you give them the money to do so**