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“”There’s nothing the rightwing loves more than a black person willing to say black people are the real racists or a queer person willing to say queer people are the real threat. If you're queer or a person of color and you're telegenic and articulate and willing to sell the rancid cum rag that passes for your soul, you'll never have to do an honest day's work again in your life.
The term Uncle Tom (also House Negro in African American circles or Internalized Misogynist in feminist circles) is a commonly-used term in social justice circles to refer to members of oppressed groups who devote their time and energy to justifying why their oppression is either benign, preferable or justified. They're oftentimes commonly used as political ammo by reactionaries to claim that their beliefs are right and that they aren't bigots. It's the ultimate form of internalized oppression or internalized discrimination.
Origin and function
The term Uncle Tom is derived from the character of Uncle Tom from the eponymously named novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin. In the novel, African American slave Tom is beaten to death for refusing to betray the whereabouts of two other slaves. While he was a hero in the book, the play adaptation portrays him as a cringing lackey of his master.
Malcolm X famously used the term "house negro" (in opposition to the term "field negro") to refer to a slave who had been given certain privileges by their master and therefore felt it necessary to apologize for said system. He famously said that if the master's house was on fire, the house negro would work harder than the master to put the fire out, rather than simply flee when they had the time. Malcolm X's speech was not so much historically accurate, as an insult ("signifying" in African American parlance) against the mainstream civil rights leaders of the day, including Martin Luther King. Though there probably were subservient slaves like Uncle Tom, it was actually quite common for slave masters to live in fear of being poisoned by their house slaves, and for good reason.
In order for reactionaries to convince a large enough number of people who aren't as bigoted as they are that the current system of oppression is justified, they need to create the impression that a significant proportion of the oppressed population enjoy their lot. This is used to create the belief that the current system is just and right.
Women against feminism and female rape apologists could be called Uncle Toms. Salient examples include Phyllis Schlafly, Rebecca Hargraves, Karen Straughan, Christina Hoff Sommers and Camille Paglia. In its extreme forms, it can result in what Margaret Atwood described as "aunts" in her book The Handmaid's Tale, namely women willing to actively and knowingly claw down other women for profit.
Of the five examples mentioned above, Sommers is the most resembling of this. It's very clear from most of her work that she knows what she's doing and is deliberately lying. She's been called out multiple times for her lazy interpretation of statistics as well as her complete and utter misrepresentation of feminist concepts. It it is implausible for a Ph.D. of philosophy and self-proclaimed former feminist to engage in such sloppy reasoning without being paid somehow.
Even more extreme is Wendy McElroy, the self-proclaimed rape victim and "individualist feminist" who's the libertarian right's go-to rape apologist due to her status as a victim of rape (this, interestingly enough, creates a Catch-22 for feminists: they can't call into question her experience as a rape victim, but her status of rape victim lends credence to her arguments, at least in the eyes of rape apologists).
Some people of color justify the current system of racial oppression based on either sloppy racialist science or appeals to cultural inferiority.
Notable examples might include Thomas Sowell and Candace Owens (who both argue that blacks are enslaved by the very things keeping them above water and not in slave-like conditions, namely the welfare state), Sheriff David Clarke (the black police officer who justifies police brutality against people of color) and, in its most extreme form, Tara McCarthy (a British white supremacist of Indian descent who's willing to self-deport in the eventuality of the creation of a white ethnostate).
In the wake of the European migrant crisis (2015-), immigrant and Jewish members of nativist, anti-semitic and racist parties (like Kent Ekeroth, a Jew inside the Sweden Democrats, an organization founded by Neo-Nazis and still widely populated by them) could be included as well.
More insidious and far more common is the cloth coat Republican, namely a non-upper-class person who argues for neoliberal capitalist policies designed to benefit the upper class at the expense of everyone else. Every right-wing libertarian who's not a plutocrat (which is 99.9% of them) fits this mold. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the working-class base of Trump's campaign could also be included.
For transgender people, Blaire White is the absolute perfect example of this, namely a transgender woman who argues that she's "imitating femininity" and justifies misgendering trans folk. To a lesser extent, truscum could be included in this as well, as they use their status as trans folk to dismiss the identity of genderqueer folk, appealing to the same kind of people that deny their gender identity as well as gobble up their neurosexist nonsense about gendered brains to justify female oppression.
Some disabled people may justify ableism, taking their disabilities as objective proof that they are inferior (instead of considering the idea that maybe they deserve accommodations and inclusion).
The best example of this is autistic people who insist that autism needs a cure, even though autism is innate and the only possible cure may be selective abortion. When any autistic person tries to call them out on their behavior, they use this as evidence that autistics are "rude," "unempathetic," "abusive," and truly inferior to non-autistic people. Jonathan Mitchell and the autistic dark web are examples.
This can also apply to disabled people who say it's okay to use the r-word (retard), even though this language is hurtful to many people with disabilities and can make them feel unwelcome and unwanted.
In popular culture
- Uncle Ruckus in the comic strip and TV series Boondocks
- The character Stephen in the movie Django Unchained
- Savage, Dan. Milo Yiannopoulos: Girls Are In Danger When Adult Trans Women Use Public Toilets But 13-Year-Old Boys Can Benefit From Giving Head To Adult Males. The Stranger, February 20, 2017.
- Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, edited by Elizabeth Ammons (2010). W. W. Norton & Company, 2nd ed. (Norton Critical Editions). ISBN 0393933997.
- Uncle Tom's Cabin. Cliffs Notes.
- Malcolm describes the difference between the "house Negro" and the "field Negro." Speech transcript from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. 23 January 1963 (The Malcolm X Project at Columbia University).
- The difference between the House Negro and the Field Negro by Malcolm X (YouTube).
- Were There Slaves Like Stephen in 'Django'? by Henry Louis Gates Jr. (4/29/13 12:10am) The Root.
- Truscum by Fiver5 (May 18, 2014) Urban Dictionary.
- Al Sharpton Is A Bigot… Against Fat People: The trim activist loves to mock the overweight August 26, 2014. The Smoking Gun.
- Docs: Autism Starts in the 2nd Trimester of Pregnancy
- What is autism?
- I Am the Person You Hurt When You Say the R-Word - HuffPo
- Why We Need to Stop Using the R-Word - Teen Vogue
- Django Unchained (2012) IMDb.