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Is “Uncle Tom” a Racial Slur?

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Senator Tim Scott (R — South Carolina)

3,149 words

When the GOP selected black South Carolina senator Tim Scott to respond to President Biden’s address to Congress, I let out the heaviest of sighs. A sigh so heavy that I like to imagine it traveled around the world, was audible from space, and is currently soaring past Mars on its way to Alpha Centauri and beyond.

Trump handed them the blueprint in 2016. Don’t worry about what your enemies might say, stop trying to do “outreach,” and play to your base. And it wasn’t just Trump. His success has been replicated by Nigel Farage and Matteo Salvini, and while Le Pen in France may not have won the championship, she at least reached the playoffs following the Trump method.

And yet here we are. It’s like Trump never happened. The GOP wants to treat the Trump era like it was the 9th season of Dallas [2]: just a dream. Now we are all waking up to find Tim fuckin’ Scott in our shower.

The people cry out for a party that does not care if it gets called racist, and what they get is a party desperate to prove that it is not racist — and unafraid to make a fool of itself in the process. It’s like handing a 19th-century doctor the recipe for penicillin, and him still preferring leech treatments.

Most of Scott’s rebuttal was pretty standard GOP boilerplate. There was some stuff blaming Biden for the fact that schools are closed, even though that is decided mostly on a state and local level. There were some grumblings about wasteful spending in Biden’s recent spending bills. There was one particularly stupid line: “We should be expanding opportunities and options for all families, not throwing money at certain issues because Democrats think they know best.” Well, no shit, Sherlock. If Democrats thought Republicans knew better, then they would be Republicans.

There were some bits about school choice in there. In principle, I don’t like the idea of school choice because letting blacks go to white schools would disrupt the learning environment. And yet the ruthless pragmatist in me wants it to happen, because as a youth, I was personally redpilled [3] by my experience with desegregation busing and I know giving blacks school choice would redpill more white youth.

Yawn. All that is boring. But then halfway through, Tim Scott said six little words that sent the Left into a frenzy: 

“America is not a racist country.”

In some ways, he is right. It’s not racist in the way that people say or think it is. But before we delve deeper into that, we must go back to earlier in his speech, where Scott says some things that would seem to contradict his claim.

He opens the discussion of race by saying: 

Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around a store while I’m shopping.

I’ll take his word for it that those things have happened to him. But if you are trying to claim that America is not a racist country, that’s not a good opening gambit, and not just from a propaganda perspective. You should only bring up counter-arguments to your thesis to debunk them or explain why they are exceptional. A better introduction would be “When I was young, I was pulled over for no reason and followed around stores while shopping but things have changed since then. We’ve made a lot of progress.”

Otherwise, how does it make sense? “We live in a non-racist country. . . that pulls black people over for no reason and follows them around in stores?”

He then says: “I remember every morning at the kitchen table my grandfather would open the newspaper and read it, I thought, but later I realized he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example.”

This one hit a little closer to home. My own grandfather was an illiterate Creole sharecropper. Yes, I, Travis LeBlanc, the erudite Oscar Wilde of the Dissident Right, am only two generations away from illiterate Louisiana swamp trash. Frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. It gives me prole cred. Fuck you, Dirtbag Leftists. You think you’re pro-working class? Well, could your grandfather read? Oh, he could? Well, mine couldn’t. That makes me more prole than you. Get out of here with your bougie, literate grandfathers.

My dad has told me stories about how he used to read the newspaper to his illiterate father every day. I don’t have anything profound or ideological to say about Tim’s line besides it hitting home. I will say, however, that it might have been better for his gramps to have owned up to his illiteracy and let Tim read the newspaper to him. For one, it would have been more honest (which is a more important example to set). Secondly, it could have been a bonding experience.

Tim continues:

I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called “Uncle Tom” . . .

Because you are one.

and the N-word . . .

Because you are one.

by progressives, by liberals.

What’s that saying about broken clocks?

Look, I can believe that Tim Scott has been called an Uncle Tom. I would be surprised if he hadn’t been. But I do not believe that he has been called the n-word by a significant number of liberals. Maybe other blacks have called him a “house nigger” or something, but not white liberals. And if any white liberals did call him that, it was because they were trying to hurt Scott’s feelings, not because they are racist against blacks in general. Why would a person who hated blacks be a Democrat in the first place? “Look, I hate blacks but I love drag queen story hour. I’m willing to overlook all the BLM stuff to get those drag queens in our libraries.”

Scott continues: 

Believe me, I know firsthand our healing is not finished. In 2015 after the shooting of Walter Scott, I wrote a bill to fund body cameras. Last year after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I built an even bigger police reform proposal. But my Democratic colleagues blocked it. I extended an olive branch, I offered amendments. But Democrats used a filibuster to block the debate from even happening. My friends across the aisle all seem to want the issue more than they wanted a solution.

That last part is probably true. But everything before that? Who is he trying to appeal to? Democrats will never believe that Republicans are the real anti-racists, and the GOP base doesn’t care about racism. 

When America comes together, we’ve made tremendous progress. But powerful forces want to pull us apart. 100 years ago kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic, and if they looked a certain way, they were inferior.

Is this true? Certainly, over the years many whites have believed that blacks are “inferior.” Many whites still do. But were blacks ever told that they need to think of themselves as inferior? Were they taught that in schools? “Good morning, class. Our lesson today is on how you are inferior to white people.”

Today, kids are being taught that the color of their skin defines them again. And if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor.

Now, I will give Tim Scott’s speechwriter some credit for acknowledging the existence of anti-whiteness. I would have liked it better if he had specifically mentioned whites in this context. C’mon, Tim! Name the white. Oh well. Everyone knows what he is talking about.

This goes, however, against his thesis that America is not a racist country. If what he is saying is true, then America is a racist country. It is a country that is racist against whites, though Scott may be using the Left’s definition of “racism,” which says that you cannot be racist against whites. That’s the only way I can imagine he could square the circle of “anti-whiteness is taught in schools” with “America is not a racist country.”

And here is the money shot:

You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination, and it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.

So that’s the real meat and potatoes of his speech.

The responses to the response started rolling in, and one word popped up again and again: Uncle Tom. And then there was a play on that term: Uncle Tim. Get it? Because his name is Tim and he’s an Uncle Tom! The words “Uncle Tim” were used so much that it started trending on Twitter for several hours.

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Republicans have spent the last few days in ecstasy. For years, the GOP has been saying that the Democrats are the real racists. At last, they have their smoking gun. You see, an Uncle Tom is a specific kind of black person, so if people are calling Tim Scott an Uncle Tom, that means they are attacking him for the color of his skin! 

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Sigh. . .

Conservative media have been trying to blow this up into a major controversy:

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And I’ve seen several conservative media outlets try to say that Uncle Tom is a “racial slur”.

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Sigh. . .

Where to begin?

The GOP wants to prove that they are more “Not Racist” than the Left. It is a game they can’t win for two reasons.

First, the Left loves the criminals and the terrorists, too. You can’t get more “Not Racist” than that. The Left will take “Not Racist” to levels that most conservatives are not willing to follow, like claiming that a black rapist was the victim of a bad educational system and that Muslims in the West become terrorists because their host nations didn’t try hard enough to integrate them. To the Left, there are no bad POC, only misunderstood POC who were let down by society.

The parallel phenomenon of that is when Democrats try to claim that they are the real patriots. Liberals will often say that a conservative position is “un-American” or “not who we are.” No one believes this, either. For one, liberals spend a lot of saying America, its history, its Founding Fathers, its people, and its institutions are fundamentally racist — i.e. evil. So when liberals turn around and say that they love America more than conservatives, you have to wonder what exactly it is about the country they love. 

There’s also a glaringly obvious contradiction: If America was and remains rooted in racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy from the beginning, how can racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy not be “who we are?”

The second reason that liberals fail at being more-patriotic-than-thou is that conservatives are willing to take patriotism to levels liberals cannot follow. To conservatives, America can do no wrong. Conservatives will defend all of America’s imperialist ventures. Conservatives believe that America is God’s chosen country. They will acknowledge slavery and Jim Crow, but to the conservatives, those were not things that America did. Those were things the Democrats did. Their conscience is clear. At best, liberals can claim that they love the idea of what America could be. But conservatives love America for what it is, warts and all. Hell, they think the warts are beauty marks!

The second reason conservatives can’t win a “Not Racist” contest is that the Left are the ones who define “racist” — and it will always mean you are racist and they are not. That’s how we arrived at all the double standards and word games about power and privilege and blah, blah, blah.

You can’t beat the Left at their own game because it’s their game. They make the rules and they can change those rules any time they want, even in the middle of a match, and make them apply retroactively.

It’s bad enough that the GOP is hellbent on trying to beat the Left at their own game. What’s worse is that they don’t understand the rules. They just try to cargo-cult the Left. Do what the Left does, say what the Left says, and hope that they get the same results the Left gets. But the Left is playing by different rules.

But beyond that. Is “Uncle Tom” a racial slur? Well, it’s certainly not meant to be taken as a compliment. But is it a racial slur?

Now, I do not use racial slurs, but I don’t moralize about it. I prefer to lead by example. From a strategic perspective, we on the Dissident Right deal in painful truths, and I see no reason to make the truth more painful than it already is.

On a more personal level, I just think racial slurs are impolite. I would like an ethnostate fit for gentlemen. I do not say anything that I am not prepared to defend as either truth or humor, and I can’t defend using a racial slur if I can make the same point just as well with a less offensive term.

That doesn’t mean that I will start using the ridiculous euphemisms that the Left wants me to use. I refuse to call illegal immigrants “undocumented workers.” If I lose my wallet on the way to a job interview, I will arrive at the job site as an “undocumented worker,” but I’m still not a goddamned illegal immigrant.

I don’t use racial slurs, but I do use the term “Uncle Tom,” as it describes a very specific phenomenon. Unlike the N-word, it is not an inflammatory version of a less offensive term. What else would you call an Uncle Tom? You could call them a “race traitor,” but that sounds even more inflammatory than “Uncle Tom.”

Republicans are trying to claim that “Uncle Tom” is the equivalent of the N-word, but it is really the opposite. By definition, an Uncle Tom is someone who does not act enough like an N-word.

Now, I could sympathize with the argument that “Uncle Tom” should be considered similar to slurs in the sense that only black people should be able to use them. If you want to say that white people should not use the term “Uncle Tom” because it is not up to white people to decide who is and who is not a traitor to the black race, I could respect that argument. We all know the meme about the atheist lecturing Christians about not being Christian enough. No one likes that guy.

[15]But that’s not the argument that the GOP is making. They are trying to act like the term “Uncle Tom” itself is racist. It’s not. Actual racists generally do not use the term “Uncle Tom,” preferring instead the more respectable term “one of the good ones.”

On top of this, I have never heard black people argue that white people should not use the term Uncle Tom. After all, by definition, an Uncle Tom is a black person who craves the approval of white people, so I imagine that blacks probably enjoy seeing white people call that behavior out then publicly and ostentatiously withhold said approval. It’s like the hot girl who posts screenshots of guys trying to flirt with her just to humiliate them. “Look at this loser who thought they could get with me! In your dreams!”

That said, you could make the case that Uncle Tom is a slur against whites. It’s a pejorative for a black person who is too friendly to whites, implying that there is something wrong with being friendly to whites, suggesting something is wrong with whites. But again, that’s not the argument Republicans are making.

Last fall, I made the following prediction [16]:

We are going to see the emergence of the “real nigga conservative.” Con Inc. has been pushing black conservatives on us for decades, but I think we will see a sort of “black authenticity” arms race.

If the GOP is going to maintain people’s faith in the feasibility of multiculturalism, they have to be doing more than just putting forward a bunch of Carlton Banks types. Everyone knows that Carlton Banks types are outliers and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. If they are going to keep people on the multicultural plantation, they are going to show that conservative ideas have appeal with “real niggas.”

This most recent Tim Scott controversy is another reason why “real nigga conservativism” is likely. We all knew that after Trump, the GOP was going to go all-in with “based POC” and double down on “Democrats are the real racists.” But the GOP chose to put forth as their spokesman a Carlton Banks-type: a white-acting black person.

The GOP thought that putting forward Carlton Banks as their spokesman would immunize them against all dangers. Had the Left called Carlton Banks a corporate shill, an establishment puppet, or a whore for the donors, it would have run off them like water off a raincoat. But when the Left called Carlton Banks an “Uncle Tom,” it was astonishing how the GOP recoiled, how injured they look, how they shrunk back: “we’ve been found out!”

If the GOP wants to keep the scam going, they are going to have to find some “real niggas” — black-presenting blacks — to recite their talking points. “Biden says that America is a racist country. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit! The only racists I see are dem bitch-ass niggaz over there in dem blue states!” 

I’m exaggerating to a point. The GOP seems hellbent on overhauling their image, getting away from being “the white people’s party.” But by putting forward guys like Tim Scott, then they just look like the “People Who Act White Party,” which isn’t much of an overhaul. That’s why they need some “real niggaz” to say all the same stuff Tim Scott says, but “nigga” it up. Such a person would still be an Uncle Tom, but at least they would not have the words “Uncle Tom” tattooed on their forehead the way Tim Scott does. Such a person might fool some people. Tim Scott fools no one.

I’m not advocating for this. 

I’m not looking forward to it. 

I’m just saying it’s going to happen.

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