It’s the old ‘House Negro’ resurfacing
“So, you have two types of Negro. The old type and the new type. Most of you know the old type. When you read about him in history during slavery he was called ‘Uncle Tom.’ He was the House Negro.”—Malcolm X
In the 1960s, African Americans embraced a locally fashioned brand of Black pride, and “Black is beautiful” was their traditional motto. According to writer Ronald E. Hall, African Americans mostly embraced the Black pride movement in the 1960s.
“Unfortunately, such activist idealism manifested in Black pride expired with the passing of the times,” Hall asserted. The author then noted that Black Americans “remain the most despised” among the community of human races, reinforced via media images.
“In response,” Hall determined, “is Black self-hate acted out by the political conservatism of Black American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as an icon.”
In the eyes of many in Black America, Justice Thomas—disparagingly described by some as “Uncle Thomas,” isn’t alone. Recently, the antics of Republican Georgia Senate Candidate Herschel Walker, hip hop star Kanye West, sports commentator Stephen A. Smith, CNN contributor Van Jones and others have drawn the ire of fellow African Americans.
Walker’s campaign against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock infuriated Black Americans, many of whom called him a “House Negro” and an “Uncle Tom.”
“Herschel Walker being in this election is an insult to Black Americans,” Rutgers University Professor Valerie Fitzhugh determined. “How does he not know he is being used?”
Earlier this month, a photo of Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones surfaced showing him among the crowd of White people in 1957 who blocked six Black students from desegregating a high school in Arkansas.
Before Jones responded to the criticism, Smith quickly jumped to the owner’s defense, and the uproar from the Black community proved swift. Most observers noted that in his four decades owning the Cowboys, Jones had never hired a Black head coach.
Further, the owner had vociferously blasted former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem. Kaepernick hasn’t received an NFL job since.
“Sometimes a fruit falls from a tree and rolls so far away from its roots that it’s no longer of the tree,” asserted Brother Jamaal Nelson, the owner of the app Knowledge of Self. Continuing his quoting of Malcolm X in describing Smith, Nelson said, “the hard fall, and long journey, bruises the fruit so much that it totally changes it. But, unfortunately, it’s the same for some of our people.”
West, the rapper now known as “Ye,” also upset many of his own race with comments ranging from “slavery is a choice” to asserting that George Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose. He further angered the masses by donning White Lives Matter shirts alongside Candace Owens, whom many Black people dismiss as a self-loathing individual.
“Many millennials viewed West as an older brother,” writer Minda Honey wrote. “Losing hope in him can feel like losing hope in ourselves, like we’re looking at what’s waiting for us after a few more successes, after we find out that White validation is gold-plated and something green and corrosive waits for us beneath it,” Honey, the owner of TAUNT, insisted.
“If West can’t be Black and brilliant in America, someone like me can’t survive it either. So, we’re resistant to giving up on him,” Honey assessed.
As for Jones, the CNN contributor, his “apology” for what he deemed the lack of response by the Black community to West’s anti-Semitic comments drew the ire of nearly all social media.
“Now, I must have missed the meeting where we all came together on Black Twitter and elected Jones the representative of the ‘community,’” Jessica Washington wrote for The Root. “But, I kind of think I’d remember making the man the supreme leader who said we don’t give Donald Trump ‘enough credit’ for his love of Black people.”
Washington called White supremacy a threat that impacts all oppressed peoples, and all should take it seriously. “But trying to make the victims of White supremacy fight like crabs in a barrel does nothing to make the situation better,” she declared.
Dr. Jeff Menzies, a clinical psychologist, said it’s often difficult to label someone an “Uncle Tom” or a “House Negro.” “Part of [some people’s behavior], I think, is stubbornness,” Dr. Menzies said on the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Let It Be Known live morning show.
“For example, some people are like, ‘You’re not going to move me from my political views.’ Some will point out that Democrats are not that better, just maybe not as condescending,” he said.
Dr. Menzies called self-hate “real.” “It’s a learned process and learned as a conditioning,” the clinical psychologist continued. “The process of learning is a deep and systematic concept.”
Dr. David Childs, a History and Black Studies Department professor at Northern Kentucky University, said it’s proper to view West, Smith, Jones and others in a historical context. “Since the time of enslavement there have been African Americans that have sided with White forces that joined up with the enslaver to get benefits,” Dr. Childs said.
“Sometimes I wonder if they believe everything they put forth. But it’s very lucrative to sign up with certain individuals like those with [former President Donald Trump].
“They stand to benefit, reminding me of what Malcolm X said in his speech differentiating between the House Negro and the Field Negro. He talked about how the House Negro benefitted from the master.
“I see that today. If offered the right amount of money, many people in our community would say and do whatever.”
Sonny Etienne, a licensed mental health counselor, and certified addiction professional, said self-hate isn’t always by accident. “It’s well-orchestrated,” Etienne stated.
“There are folks out there perpetrating fake news. So, the thing you’ve got to ask with Kanye [is], are there unseen political hands working behind the scenes?”
Stacy M. Brown is an NNPA Newswire senior national correspondent.
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