Black Conservatives, Black Progressives, and 'Uncle Tom'
Back in the day, we used to call someone like that, and I want to remind you when this incident occurred, I was really struck by a front page picture of this guy, which we called Negro, I mean that we call him a Negro in the fact that he works for not for our people but against our people. In the old days we called him an Uncle Tom.
These words were spoken by Zaki Baruti, the president of an organization called the Universal African Peoples Organization, whose mission, as it is stated on their webpage, is to “do all we can do to uplift and empower our people throughout the world,” at a NAACP rally in support of two members of the SEIU who were charged with assaulting a street vendor named Kenneth Gladney while calling him a ‘n****r’. While there is some debate as to what happened the night of the assault between Mr. Gladney and the SEIU members – the unionists were eventually cleared, despite eyewitnesses collaborating Mr. Gladney’s testimony – I found it much more interesting why Mr. Gladney should be called an “Uncle Tom” at a NAACP rally. As Ron Christie wrote in his book Blackwards: How Black Leadership Is Returning America To The Days of Separate But Equal, it would seem that the NAACP now finds it necessary, before it works toward the ‘advancement of colored people’ to check that colored person’s party affiliation:
In the face of an apparently racist even where a black man is seemingly beaten, and berated due to his political beliefs that run counter to those of many African-Americans, Clyburn and other supporters of the president cowered, rather than led. They failed to denounce a vicious assault on a black man at a health care rally; assaulted both because of his affiliation with the Tea Party and called a n****r’ because he was black. For all its calls for equality, equal rights, and justice for all under the law, the Congressional Black Caucus failed to stand up for someone who was black because the gentleman in question was from a differing political and ideological perspective than their own.
Mr. Baruti defended his charge on The O’Reilly Factor, by saying that it was okay to call Mr. Gladney an “Uncle Tom” because Mr. Gladney was selling anti-Obama merchandise at a Tea Party rally. A Black man selling anti-Obama merchandise is apparently all it takes to be labeled as someone who is “nor for our people but against our people” by someone who is ‘doing all he can do to uplift and empower our people.’
Mr. Gladney is not alone. Representative Allen West, a man who, with two master degrees and over 20 years of military service, would seem to be someone African-Americans could look to as a role model, nevertheless is called “Uncle Tom” and “House Slave” regularly, especially in the Black Progressive press. The same press also regularly dismissed Clarence Thomas as an Uncle Tom, much to the chagrin of Professor Patricia Turner, who said “It was a really rough time for me during the Clarence Thomas hearings because it was very common in the Black community to refer to Clarence Thomas as an Uncle Tom. And my understanding of Justice Thomas, you know, he wasn't good enough to be the real Uncle Tom. I couldn't imagine him being someone who would have let himself be beaten to death rather than reveal where these two Black women were.”
Even Drs. Thomas Sowell and Walt Williams, African-Americans who escaped poverty to become two of the most respected economic thinkers alive today, were called “a new breed of Uncle Tom [and] some of the biggest liars the world ever saw” by Benjamin Hooks, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. If that’s considered advancing colored people...
If someone of Dr. Sowell’s accomplishments can be called an Uncle Tom, then what is an Uncle Tom? Clearly Mr. Hooks did not mean the term to refer to the actual Uncle Tom from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, who sacrificed himself to a death by beating at the hands of a slave master rather than betray two escaped slaves, as Dr. Turner did. The term as Mr. Hooks and others use it, is, according to dictionary.com, a “disparaging and offensive” term for “a Black man considered by other Blacks to be subservient to curry favor with Whites.”
Generally, this definition comes as much from White Liberal Elite as it does from Blacks. In fact, often the White Liberal Elite seems to be leading Blacks by the hand on issues of race, defining for us what is racist and who are the Uncle Toms, and often using Blacks to promote Progressivism, regardless of the ill effect this Progressivism may have on the Black community. This is generally true today as it has been true historically. Margaret Sanger for example, founder of Planned Parenthood, once said that "We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don't want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."
Nonetheless, if this is the definition of an Uncle Tom, then why should it used against African-American conservatives? Is Conservatism anti-Black, and its opposite, Progressivism, pro-Black?
Who, for example, African-American Conservatives or African-American Progressives, has a more pro-Black view on an issue that affects the African-American community as dramatically as abortion? Interestingly, until relatively recently, there was no distinction between the two. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, for example, as late as 1977, until he needed White Liberal Elite support for his run for the presidency, stated flatly that abortion was “Black genocide”. When one looks at the raw data it is easy to see why he came to this conclusion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more Black abortions than the number of Blacks lost to the seven leading causes of death combined. Blackgenocide.org reports that from 1973 to 2011 there have been over 13 million African-American abortions, which is 174% higher than the number of deaths Blacks have suffered from AIDS, violent crime, accidents, cancer, and heart disease combined. Further, it is estimated that over 1,800 Blacks have abortions each day.
Yet, despite these tragic and incredible numbers, there seems to be no African-American Progressives who seem willing to speak out against abortion, even as it relates to the Black community. Certainly not Barack Obama, who has made his support for abortion – even partial-birth abortions and born-alive abortions (the killing of a child that is delivered after he or she survives an abortion attempt) – a centerpiece for his reelection campaign. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, like most of the Congressional Black Caucus of which he is the chairman, has a perfect 100 percent rating from the pro-abortion group NARAL. Tellingly, a billboard from thatsabortion.com that featured a Black child under the statement: “The Most Dangerous Place for an African-American is in the Womb” had to be removed after facing pressure from Black groups led by Al Sharpton who found it to be “racist.” One of the few prominent African-Americans to support this billboard was Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, a woman who though I believe is essentially a Progressive though a Social Conservative, who said “This billboard should be posted in every city of the country.” For this statement and for many others like it, Dr. Alveda King has of course been called an Uncle Tom.
Another issue in which one can compare African-American Conservatives and African-American Progressives is economics. Surely, if Conservatism is antithetical to the well-being of the Black community, then under a conservative administration, Blacks will suffer disproportionally, while conversely, Blacks will disproportionally thrive under a progressive administration. But this has not been the case.
African-American columnist Joseph Perkins took a look how Blacks fared under the Reagan administration and found that “on balance, the majority of Black Americans made considerable progress in the 1980s.” Among the facts he listed include: • Total Black business receipts increased from $12.4 billion in 1982 to $18.1 billion in 1987, translating into an annual average growth rate of 7.9 percent (compared to 5 percent for all U.S. businesses. • Upwardly mobile cohort grew by a third under Reagan's watch, from 3.6 million in 1980 to 4.8 million in 1988. • the middle class constituted more than 40 percent of Black households by the end of Reagan's presidency • Between 1982 and 1988, total Black employment increased by 2 million, a staggering sum. That meant that Blacks gained 15 percent of the new jobs created during that span, while accounting for only 11 percent of the working-age population. • The Black jobless rate was cut by almost half between 1982 and 1988. Over the same span, the Black employment rate – the percentage of working-age persons holding jobs – increased to record levels, from 49 percent to 56 percent. • The number of Black professionals increased by an astounding 63 percent. • Black college enrollment increased by 100,000 between 1980 and 1987 • The 1980s saw an improvement in the Black high school graduation rate, as the proportion of Blacks 18 to 24 years old earning high school diplomas increased from 69.7 percent in 1980 to 76 percent by 1987.
How have African-Americans done under the progressive administration of the first Black president? Not nearly as well. As Antony Davies and James Harrigan wrote for the Triblive.com, “
The median black income was $28,000 (in today’s terms) versus a $35,100 median white income when Bush left office. By 2011, the median black income had fallen to $23,600 while the median white income had increased to $35,300.
This is due, in no small part, to unemployment. Here blacks have fared considerably worse than their white counterparts as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official unemployment rate for blacks rose from 10 percent in 2008 to 14.5 percent today, while unemployment for whites increased from 5.2 percent to 7.2 percent over the same period.
But the official unemployment figures understate the reality. When workers are unemployed so long that they stop looking for work, the government stops counting them as unemployed. Adding back those discouraged workers shows that the actual unemployment rate for blacks rose from 10 percent in 2007 to 17.7 percent today, whereas white unemployment increased from 7.2 percent to 10.4 percent during the same period.
If unemployment paints a bleak picture, incarceration rates make matters considerably worse. Blacks today are imprisoned at almost seven times the rate at which whites are imprisoned. The majority of these people are imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses.
In perhaps the most telling metric, the poverty rate for blacks rose from less than 35 percent in 2008 to almost 39 percent in 2011, according to the Census Bureau.
Yet, despite these numbers, if you are an African-American who prefers the Reagan administration to the Obama administration, guess what that makes you?
One can hardly fault those African-Americans who tend to have to knee-jerk association of Conservatism and racism, and therefore Black Conservatism and Uncle Tom-ism. Much of that is the result of the White Liberal Elite dominance of the media, and their willingness to exploit this dominance in order to fashion a narrative to make Conservatives seem racist. The typical mainstream media reporter will search for a racist on the Right with the same desperation with which I search for the free sample tables at Costco. And if one cannot be found, then one can be created, by way of either planting one at, say, a Tea Party rally (how difficult is it to have some guy stand with a placard of Obama with a bone through his nose?), or by labeling some Conservative as a racist.
Remember the “Journ-O-list” scandal, the set of emails between prominent Progressives in the media that was leaked a few years ago. One such email came from Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent, who emailed to his colleagues his advice that they should “take one of them--Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares--and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a Black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.”
This tactic is used most noticeably as of late in the voter ID debate. Advocates of laws that would require voters to show some form of ID do not request that the bar be higher for African-Americans. I as an African-American would not have to pay any special tax, take any special test, and so on beyond the normal requirements of obtaining a government ID such as a driver’s license. It is difficult to see the discrimination against me here. Almost all Americans, even African-Americans, have an acceptable form of identification or can easily get one. And the minute minority of people who would find the task of getting an ID too burdensome – usually some indigent elderly person whose birth certificate was long lost – should be able to get one by way of special government assistance. Yet despite the lack of discrimination in Voter ID requirements, the White Liberal Elite,– including President Clinton – compare Voter ID laws to Jim Crow. I even channel-surfed past MSNBC recently long enough to hear some pundit for The Nation – a favorite sounding board for the White Liberal Elite - say that Republican support for voter ID comes because ‘suppression of the Black vote is the core issue for the GOP’.
With over-the-top, hyper-partisan rhetoric such as this taken as gospel by many, is it any wonder then that Black Conservatives are seen as betrayers of their race?
To a large degree, the belief that Black Conservatism equals Uncle Tom-ism is also based on the belief that Conservatism has been historically been against civil rights. Yet this belief is based upon myth. There are obvious facts that even Progressives admit to – that the Republican Party was born out of the abolition movement, that Republican president Lincoln ended slavery, that the KKK formed out the Democratic Party. But what is not widely acknowledged it that it was the Republican Congress with a Republican president who passed the 1957 Civil Rights Act over Democratic objections, or that 94% of Senate Republicans supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Let’s look at the records of the two administrations most responsible for making African-Americans such loyal Democrats: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. It is interesting to note that while it was the Republicans who supported federal anti-lynching laws, including Alfred Landon, FDR’s 1936 Republican opponent, and President Calvin Coolidge, President Roosevelt opposed such legislation. President Roosevelt also appointed known KKK member Hugo Black to the Supreme Court, named segregationist Jimmy Byrnes as a top advisor, and picked former KKK member Harry Truman as a vice-president. President Roosevelt was so hostile to African-Americans, or so afraid to irritating the racist element of his party, that he refused to meet with Jesse Owens after Mr. Owens won four gold medals, though he happily met with other White Olympians.
President Roosevelt was no Woodrow Wilson in terms of racism however. Nor was he a Lyndon Johnson. According to Pulitzer Prize winner Robert A. Caro, who has written extensively about President Johnson, “never supported civil rights legislation—any civil rights legislation” until 1957. His first speech as senator was to complain that President Truman’s proposed civil rights legislation “for depriving one minority of its rights in order to extend rights to other minorities”, meaning deprive White Southerners the right to discriminate against Blacks in hiring, and the right to lynch. He revealed his motivation for reversing his view on civil rights as senator by saying "These Negroes, they're getting pretty uppity these days, and that's a problem for us since they've got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness." When he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act he told two Democratic governors that “I'll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.” Similarly, when he appointed Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, he told a staffer, "Son, when I appoint a nigger to the court, I want everyone to know he's a nigger."
Yet, despite this, for any Black to oppose the presidency of either man would have one labeled an “Uncle Tom” in the African-American community.
It is difficult to avoid the temptation to call Black Progressives the true “Uncle Toms.” Black Progressives not only are advocates for policies that harm the Black community in deference to the White Liberal Elite in my view, but are extremely hesitate to criticize a member of this White Liberal Elite for racial speech or actions. (Yeah, let’s call Sarah Palin a racist for writing “Obama’s Shuck and Jive Ends with Benghazi Lies”, but let’s not say anything when Harry Reid praising the “light skinned” President Obama for having “no Negro dialect except when he wanted to.”)
But I, like most African-American Conservatives, prefer to presume that both Black Conservatives and Black Progressives want what is best for the Black community. Unfortunately, thanks to a White Liberal Elite that continues to manipulate our perception of history and current events for their own ends, it seems difficult for Black Progressives to agree.