Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Sean Reed, George Floyd, Trayford Pellerin. The list of African-Americans killed by police in 2020 is long and dismal.
And now Kenosha, Wisconsin, is burning after a police officer shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake in the back four times earlier this week. It seems that everything that the Black Lives Matter movement stands for has been corroborated. Black people are victims who are doomed to be oppressed by systemic racism in American society.
It’s a difficult moment to watch a documentary which stands the BLM narrative on its head. But perhaps it’s the best moment, because the contrast between two worldviews is so stark.
The message of Uncle Tom, directed by Justin Malone, is that African-Americans have to stop blaming other people for their problems and to work hard in America’s dynamic economy to achieve success. It is Martin Luther King Jr’s dream:
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”.
For those watching it outside the US, the film’s narrative is mind-bendingly unfamiliar. Without ignoring the poverty which blights the lives of so many blacks, it highlights dozens who describe themselves as conservatives, Republicans, or even fans of President Trump. One hilarious scene features a young black Republican with Huuuuge MAGA cap rapping “I’m black I’m no Democrat”.
The executive producer and one of the main voices in the 106-minute documentary is Larry Elder, a radio show host in Los Angeles and the author of several books.
“The idea that a racist white cop shooting unarmed black people is a peril to black people is BS, complete BS,” Elder tells an astonished (white) interviewer. He spouts reams of statistics to back up his contention. The big problem, he says, is black-on-black murders. The success of African-Americans isn’t reported by a left-wing media, he complains. If black America were a country, he says, it would have the world’s 15th highest GDP.
An apologist for white privilege? No, but contrarian views like this are why black conservatives are taunted as “Uncle Toms”, after the subservient “yes-Massa” character in the famous 19th century novel. It must have taken a certain amount of courage to appear in this documentary.
The character whose life is threaded throughout the film is a Texas plumber named Chad Jackson. He personifies the film’s focus on hard work, education, family stability, patriotism and rejection of victimhood. He began life as a Democrat but after he became a Christian, he was converted to the quintessentially American philosophy of success through hard work.
Amongst the impressive speakers is Allen B. West, a former lieutenant colonel in the US Army, a former US Congressman, and the current chairman of the Texas Republican Party; the late Herman Cain, businessman and one-time presidential candidate; and Robert L. Woodson Sr, a former civil rights activist and social entrepreneur.
The show-stealer is Candace Owens, a 30-year-old Republican activist and author. Her tweet this week is characteristic of her combative style: “Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists are what happen when a society gives birth to an entire generation of spoiled rotten brats who have never experienced any real suffering”.
Uncle Tom features a clip from a C-Span recording of a hearing in the US Congress at which Owens was invited to speak . An expert from the University of Chicago (who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Twitter profile pic of ultra-woke Titania McGrath) dared to suggest that Owens was supporting white supremacy. It was a mistake; Owens demolished her:
We’re tired of rhetoric, and the numbers show that white supremacy and white nationalism is not a problem that is harming Black America. Let’s start talking about putting fathers back in the home. Let’s start talking about God and religion and shrinking government, because government has destroyed Black American homes, and every single one of you know that.
Her words convey one of the main messages of the documentary: that Democrats are fundamentally to blame for the chaotic state of black neighbourhoods in America’s big cities. This narrative runs contrary to the conventional wisdom, but it deserves a hearing.
It’s a matter of record that it was Republicans who freed the slaves and that it was Southern Democrats who fought back with the odious Jim Crow laws. But when President Kennedy and his successor Lyndon Johnson enacted civil rights legislation, African-Americans became welded-on Democrats. One of the film’s speakers recalls that when he was growing up in the South, every black home had three pictures on the wall: Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr and John F. Kennedy.
But the Great Society’s welfare payments corrupted black society. Men stopped working; they deserted their wives; their children were raised without fathers. “Under slavery a black child was more likely to be raised by his biological mother and his biological father than today,” says Elder. “The welfare state has done more to destabilise and destroy the black family than even slavery did.”
African-Americans became clients of the government – of the Democratic Party. The welfare state is Slavery 2.0, says one of the film’s participants bitterly. “More blacks are killing other blacks in one year than the Klan killed in 70 years,” says Woodson.
Abortion is part of this grim picture. The film highlights the role of Margaret Sanger and the abortion supplier that she founded, Planned Parenthood. This week, as if she were fact-checking the film, a New York Times columnist quoted a Democrat activist: “They say Black women are the base of our party. Well guess who has abortions? Black women. The majority of people who have abortions are women of color.”
It’s a sorry reflection on the Democrats if their success is measured by aborting more black babies.
“Uncle Tom’s” pro-Republican, pro-Trump message might irritate some folks. But oddly enough, you can hear in its hostility towards “liberals” a distant echo of Malcom X, the firebrand Black Muslim who taught that whites were devils. In a 1963 speech he said:
The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the “smiling” fox.
The film has its flaws: it’s a bit too long; the musical score is obtrusive; many of the speakers aren’t identified. But as a foreshadowing of a more hopeful future for African-Americans, it’s hard to beat.