Opinion: Uncle Tom’s dormitory


Stephen D’Abreau

Stephen D'Abreau

I’ve been called an “Uncle Tom” so many times that I’ve lost count. Sometimes it is in jest, sometimes it’s used as a venomous insult.

I’ve been called this by friends, strangers and even family. Granted, sometimes it’s funny and meant as a harmless joke — and at those times I will chuckle.

But when it is meant seriously, it is worse than being called the “N-word” as an insult.

Now, I’m not here to complain about the mean things people say to me — that’s pointless to me and not my style.

I do, however, want to address some of the sociopolitical implications of the term “Uncle Tom,” along with other phrases like it.

This week I have found many share a similar experience with these terms as I do, and I have neglected the topic for a while.

For me, the “N-word,” even as an actual bona fide slur, is not all that offensive.

Now, I am probably more stoic about these things than most people, but if someone uses that slur to try and hurt me, all that they have shown is that their eyes are fully functional while their mind may not be.

It’s an insult with no ability to cut deeper than the skin.

However, “Uncle Tom” is a different sort of insult.

Although quite disconnected from the abolitionist novel where the epithet comes from, the phrase can best be summed up as one that means a black person who has “sold out” to whites, hates themselves or their own race or whose ideas are controlled by whites.

The term has expanded to include basically anyone who disagrees with prevailing stereotypes of how their demographic is “supposed to” think. Examples include a woman who isn’t a feminist, a gay conservative, a Hispanic Trump supporter and so on.

Similar terms and phrases have even started popping up in academic circles as politically correct ways of calling someone “Uncle Tom.” These include phrases such as “internalized misogyny,” “homophobia” and “racism.”

Even though I am not a conservative or Republican myself, I do not march in lock-step with the liberal drums by any stretch.

Thus, the brutal truth of the matter emerges: I have never once been called an “Uncle Tom” as an insult by a conservative. It has always been a liberal using it.

The accusations of being an “Uncle Tom” or having “internalized racism” are inherently racist and disgusting. It assumes that all blacks must think alike and attempts to discredit ideas not based on lack of merit or logic, but on a nasty ad hominem attack.

Likewise, calling a woman who isn’t a feminist an analogous term is misogynist, and this goes for all the demographics.

So my conclusion and advice is as follows: First, we all have to realize these terms are silencing minorities and are indeed very bigoted and prejudiced. If you are a liberal — since this is a distinctly liberal phenomenon — I’d encourage you to stop.

If you have received these insults, don’t let yourself be silenced.

Stephen D’Abreau is a columnist, contact him at [email protected]