While reviewing a few chapters to add to my supplemental reading pack in both AP European History and AP United States History for the next academic year, I found myself reading a few chapters in Dinesh D’ Souza’s book The End of Racism. According to the book’s cover,
D’Souza challenges deeply held orthodoxies about race and racism in America. Was slavery a racist institution? Is America a racist society? Is Eurocentrism a racist concept? Can African Americans be racist? D’Souza argues that the liberal crusade against racism is detrimental to both blacks and whites, and that our next step must be to eliminate race as the basis for identity and public policy.
D’Souza, from what little I have read of this book, argues against not only affirmative action, but social and economic reforms that have been used to help poor minorities. In chapter 12 of the book, he discusses what is often termed the Uncle Tom dilemma. If you were to ask any black person about the term Uncle Tom, he or she depending on education is likely to say that an Uncle Tom is a black person who acts white. Furthermore, this person might claim to evidence that a black person who speaks well is only doing so because he/she has a desire to be just like white folks. It has been a long time since I have been called an Uncle Tom. I grew up in a rough black neighborhood for a while, but was given an opportunity to attend a private school with practically an all white demographic. Often I played the language card so that I would not lose any of my friends; it was easy to use poor grammar when speaking due to my audience outside of my all white private school confines. However, I did not fool people. It was clear that I did not fit in at home or at times on campus. I think this is why smart black students pretend to be dumb. They do it out of fear of being rejected by their black peers.
It is very odd if not unheard of to hear a white person call a black person an Uncle Tom. The last time I was called this term, I politely asked that person if he had ever read the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. After he said no, I went on to give him a brief lecture on the work I read back in middle school: Essentially, a white woman named Harriet Beecher Stowe took it upon herself to research the treatment and condition of southern blacks. While doing so, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed; it required northerners to return all runaway slaves to their masters. Keep in mind that blacks were nothing more than property, though the Constitution did not define blacks in this category until the 1857 Dread Scott case.
In her work, she wrote about a slave named Tom who was so trusted by his master, that he was often sent on long independent trips to conduct business. Modern day black folks became very critical of Stowe’s character Tom. Why would a black man who was nothing more than a slave be so loyal to his white master? Some speculate that Tom desired to transform himself into a better place; a white place where he was like those who abused other blacks. By 1960 the term Uncle Tom had a place among the vanguard of black intellectuals. By this point, with the civil rights movement underway, and a number of blacks graduating from historically black colleges, there was no longer a need to be like white people. Blacks proved that they were far superior. Thus, it is here that we see the heightened sense of black on black racism. As is the case today, black folks are expected to serve their own communities. People such as myself are often questioned for working in a place that does not serve the needs of the black community. Black people who prefer white lawyers, white bankers, white dentists are seen as Uncle Toms. Dating back to the days of Booker T. Washington, he argued that if black people do not visit and help black professionals, who will.
With the black bourgeoisie emerging from the status of proletarian, you find more and more black people crossing the racial divide. This does not mean the end of racism is here. D’Souza is actually promulgating racism by claiming that we can move toward a color blind society. I find such a statement to be racist.