Dominique Samuels | Opinion
In light of the recent commentary surrounding Kanye West’s controversial visit to the White House, of which he and his wife, Kim Kardashian, successfully pushed for the release of numerous of the unfairly imprisoned, it has come to my attention that a serious problem in the black community and wider society has arisen. Kanye West has virulently defended the rights of black people throughout his whole career, yet when a black man visits the residency of a Republican president in good faith to discuss the issues most pertinent to the black community, he is branded a traitor by those who do little to actually solve the issues plaguing said community. Figures such as TI, Snoop Dogg and even the likes of Lana Del Rey have let their thoughts be known on this topic, with Rey even going as far as to say he has betrayed “the culture”. It is almost as though Kanye did not go to the White House to discuss prison reform and the issues facing Chicago, issues that can actually be addressed and put on the agenda by the President of the United States.
But most worryingly was the coverage by CNN. Known to be harsh critics of the President, I was shocked to see the normalisation of racial slurs used to degrade black people, simply because Kanye West dared to err from the left’s narrative of your skin colour resigns you to being subservient to their political agenda, the ‘Uncle Tom’ that they want black people to be, which is ironic considering the amount of times these slurs were used on their show. In reality, Kanye has made a conscious and informed decision to engage in discourse with the President, whether he supports Donald Trump or not. That in itself is a demonstration of how the desire to make change can surpass the parameters of political ideology and the dogmatic approach that those on the left employ to convince others of their agenda.
This is the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’, a term originally coined by Michael Gerson, Chief speech-writer of George W. Bush’s administration. This can be applied to the expectation of black people to be monolithic in their political views. An example of this is using expressions like: “you have this opinion? But you’re… black?”. This mentality, frequently perpetuated by black people and white people alike, is extremely toxic and damaging to our democracy and the freedom of our political discourse. I myself have experienced this bigotry, this racism where politics and freedom of thought is concerned. I was told that I couldn’t be a conservative because I was black, told that I couldn’t lean to the right because of my skin colour, as if my race is the only element of my identity. One of the most popular terms that the ‘mob’, as Kanye West so elegantly phrases it, likes to use, is a slur against black individuals who go against the grain.
This is the famous term ‘Uncle Tom’.
I have seen this term being used increasingly against people such as Kanye West, with CNN going as far as to allow derogatory slurs such as ‘token n*gro’ and ‘house n*gro’ to be aired as though they are normal on national television. But for us to be able to get to the core of my point, we must examine the origins of this term. The phrase ‘Uncle Tom’ has extremely negative connotations, used as a derogatory slur for black people deemed ‘subservient’ to white people, thus enabling oppression and white supremacy whilst synonymously being aware of one’s socioeconomic standing. However, these negative connotations haven’t always been attached to ‘Uncle Tom’.
Uncle Tom was originally a positive character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. Used as a powerful term in furthering the pro-abolitionist movement that eventually led to the Civil War that ended slavery, Tom was depicted as a Jesus-like, martyred character that was brutally beaten and eventually murdered by his cruel slave masters after refusing to reveal the whereabouts of a group of escaped female slaves. Uncle Tom’s supposedly ‘feminine’ characteristics were in fact perverted by pro-slaver white supremacists in black face, who turned Uncle Tom from a physically and mentally strong, defiant, Christian character who refused to beat his fellow slaves, to a foolish, grey-haired, old slave apologist.
Now, do you see what I am getting at here? The pejorative meaning of Uncle Tom, which is now an insult, has always been controlled by racists, something that those on the left too frequently utilise as a weapon against those that do not subscribe to the left-wing train of thought. With that being said, the term ‘Uncle Tom’ is equally offensive to using the term ‘n**ger’ and we need to stop using this term. If the left is going to wave the ‘anti-racist’ flag as virulently as they do, it is essential that they address this regressive, repugnant term and eliminate this ignorant, bigoted poison from their political discourse.
I, as a black woman, can think any way I please. I can support the left; I can support the right. The reason for that is because we live in a free society, a democracy where black and white people alike can think the way they please.
The argument that I regularly hear where this is concerned, is the racism that is prevalent among those that lean to the right. But after reading this, can you not see that this same racism is perpetuated continuously by those on the left? For example, when black Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, was dubbed a ‘token ghetto boy’ by Labour MP Emma Dent Coad, that is the same racism that we should be all rallying against. The assumption that a black man can only lean to the right, can only revert away from leftist thought, is if he is a ‘token’ unable to think for himself, is a disgusting example of a soft bigotry of low expectations, a reverse practice of the ‘Uncle Tom’ analogy.
If you want to dispel this toxicity from all sides of the political spectrum, do not be afraid to go out there and share your conservative views and your conservative voice, because you, whether you’re black or not, deserve to have those beliefs. I can walk into a room full of white conservative men and sit down with confidence, because I know that I am equal.
We should no longer be resigned to self-consciousness and paranoia because of our race. Why? Because we don’t have to.
Be the change you want to see.