Which Kind of Uncle Tom Are You?

After years of hearing blacks make derogatory remarks about fellow blacks calling them “Uncle Toms,” I decided to learn just who Uncle Tom really is. I can’t believe it took me so long to read a classic like “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Ms Stowe is white, yet she did a very skilful job of describing the lives of slaves. Her use of slave dialect is the hardest part of the book. Let’s face it, if one did not talk daily with a slave, understanding their speech is difficult. I made it through those chapters by phonetically sounding out the words spoken by the slave characters, and even that is hard to understand what they said. It just reinforced for me that learning a new language in a foreign country is not easy if you don’t get any help other than a whip.

uncle tom's cabin

I concluded that anyone who uses the term Uncle Tom as a derogatory term is either 1. Stupid, 2. Never read the book, or 3. professes the Black Power movement. Ms Stowe’s character is not a sellout to his race. He is the exact opposite, but his method ingratiated him with his owners. Uncle Tom believed in doing what his master asked of him and in doing it well. The result was he found favor with his owners until bought by one Simon Legree. Tom also believed in God and his faith kept him strong. He had a positive attitude which also cheered the people around him.

When Legree bought Tom at the New Orléans Slave Market he learned of Tom’s easy-going way and trustworthiness. Legree vowed to break him and have Tom bowing before him. Legree ordered Tom to whip a fellow slave. Tom refused to inflict punishment upon his fellow slave or anyone for that matter. Legree had him brutally whipped. Tom held out, believing being whipped to death would reward him with Heaven.

Eventually, Legree punishes Tom to the point of death, and still Tom holds on to his faith. Legree does not understand, nor does he care to.

In my opinion, blacks who try to degrade others by calling them Uncle Tom’s are ignorant of the true story behind Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Instead they choose to believe one of the distortions invented by various authors who rewrote the story for political, or racist reasons. The distorted definition of Uncle Tom became a black who will do anything to stay in the good of a white, including betray a fellow black. In 1852 when Stowe wrote the story, there were no copyright laws to protect content, and many authors and playwrights plagiarized the work rewriting sections to please audiences. The result is that Uncle Tom, as created by author Stowe is the exact opposite of the distortions.  The real Uncle Tom did not do things to stay in the good of whites, he did them because he believed in doing the best he could no matter what. As far as betrayal, he lived the opposite having died protecting his fellow slaves.

Harriet-Beecher-Stowe

 

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