It is both a dismal reflection and depressing statement of the times in which we live that a film like Uncle Tom is considered controversial and worthy of media censorship. For daring to reject the prevailing narrative of black victimhood and instead choosing to empower the black community through individual actions, it has already been largely ignored by conventional media outlets.
To no one’s surprise, and to the film’s point, black conservative opinions do not matter. Hence a review three weeks in the making; if this film inexplicably escaped your radar, time to put it back on there. Sometimes second waves can be good.
Released on Juneteenth, Uncle Tom offers an alternative view, one of uplift and optimism, that run counter to the depressing and damaging narrative of black oppression by white America. A statement by Herman Cain at the onset of the film captures the essence of the divide besetting our nation and the basis of the culture war in which we presently find ourselves mired. Cain states his three guiding lights are a “belief in God, belief in myself, and belief in the United States of America.” It dawned on me how little we hear phrases like this anymore.
Each of these beliefs is anathema to the current platform of the Democrats and the left. They say belief in God is delusional, they say belief in oneself is Eurocentric and rooted in whiteness (this is not a joke, Robin DiAngelo says the concept of individualism is pablum from Western Civilization), and they say belief in the United States is – get ready for it – racist, sexist, intolerant, patriarchal, cisgender normative, therefore transphobic, heteronormative, therefore homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic and based in white supremacy and colonization. Someone, somewhere, has probably added to the list in the last five minutes.
Cain was speaking only for himself, but it is safe to suggest that not only are each of the film’s participants guided by a similar set of values but that conservatives as a whole are. Here is Herman Cain, someone who grew up poor and black in the American South, and later became a decorated Naval officer, a computer science whiz, corporate executive, Federal Reserve branch chairman, and presidential candidate, and I find myself having more in common with him as a younger white male with a completely different childhood and professional background than I do most of my own siblings or cousins. Why? Because we share the same values.
In the leftists’ perfect world, and as an example of their unifying themes and tolerance, I would owe Herman Cain reparations because I’m white and he would be expected to loathe me for ancient evils because he’s black. Does that make our country stronger?
The film opens with each interviewee running down a litany of hateful terms they have been called by fellow blacks as a result of simply rejecting the narrative of victimhood. For daring to step away from the expected party line, they are demeaned and silenced. Each strong enough to withstand the hate, it is the silence that is most frustrating; how is it that thinkers like Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, and Clarence Thomas are unknowns in the black community? The election of Barack Obama was certainly a pinnacle achievement for the black community and provided inspiration outside the realms of hip-hop and sports, but there are others in the public sphere who could have been serving generations of young blacks as equally inspirational role models.
The film also delves into the various political and entrepreneurial success stories of black Americans, young and old. Executive producer Larry Elder and director Justin Malone assemble a group of people that, at any other time, would be exemplars of success and worthy of emulation for everyone. The aforementioned Herman Cain, Colonel Allen West, Carol Swain, and Larry Elder himself appear alongside a younger generation of prominent black voices like Brandon Tatum and Candace Owens, among others, in a powerful showcasing of what confidence, competence, and perseverance can deliver. They neither wanted favor nor got it. They simply wanted the system and naysayers to get out of the way so they could go achieve.
Carol Swain, a prominent historian, and professor is introduced to us by saying “I never saw myself as handicapped because I was a black, because I was a woman, that I came from poverty…”
Likewise, an early glimpse of Larry Elder shows him telling us that “I always knew I was going to be an achiever…I never thought of myself as a victim.”
Herman Cain relates the time a college student asked him “How did you deal with color and race when you were climbing the corporate ladder?” He laughs, then continues with his reply, “I didn’t – let them do it.”
Consistent across the interviews is a simple realization: Not one person in the bunch sees themselves as a victim, and not surprisingly, each person is successful in their own way, in career, family, disposition. Each individual speaker is proud of who they are and their heritage. Indeed, the subjects of the film could not be more satisfied and content with their own outcomes in life, the result of hard work, determination, and self-reliance. They have applied themselves and as a result, each of them has lived the American Dream. But, in order to do so, they, like anyone else, have to see themselves as Americans first. Not black and definitely not victims; Americans.
The story of Jesse Lee Peterson is a great example of a political awakening. As a young, angry black man who accepted the myth that blacks could not achieve, he nonetheless observed the likes of Jesse Jackson profit handsomely off race hustling. If Jesse Jackson could beat the system and enrich himself, why couldn’t other blacks? In a flash, the narrative wisped away. Colin Kaepernick makes an appearance as a modern-day example of someone simultaneously decrying the American system and generating enormous sums of money for himself for doing it.
What the film is not, and this is most important, is a plea for black Americans to just change their voting habits on a whim. Insofar as that is the current modus operandi, pulling a lever uncritically is the entire complaint of the production team. Right now, they ask why 95% of blacks are dependable Democrats; simply switching over to the other side in equal numbers ignores the larger problem, namely seeking out solutions that are best for the community. In many ways, in fact, a just-as-common complaint among many of the film’s subjects is that they are equally abandoned by the conservative right. Carol Swain found out firsthand that the Republican establishment didn’t seem overly concerned with winning black votes in her native Nashville during a mayoral run, and Colonel Allen West observes that Republicans have largely written off the black vote, having accepted it is a monolithic bloc.
Still, one cannot help but notice the appeal to the Republican Party. After all, there are staggering revelations about the percentage of Planned Parenthoods operating in black communities (75%) and the resultant sheer loss of black life via abortion (20 million since Roe v. Wade; 52% of all black pregnancies ending in abortion). There is then the incompatibility between Democrats supporting unchecked illegal immigration that imposes a burden not only on the low-wage job market but the welfare state, too. Both disproportionately impact the black community. School choice could be added to the list.
At the same time, the narrative about black oppression could be countered if the media celebrated aspects going well. As Larry Elder observes, “if black America were a country, it’d be the 15th wealthiest country in the world.” Candace Owens remarks, in a Congressional hearing, that white supremacy would not crack a list on things the black community needs to worry about; yet, what is the narrative in the media and culture?
The dialogues are intended to be eye-opening for the black community, but this film is so powerful because it can resonate with anybody. Yes, it is a movie with only black voices, and the black voices speak directly to an intended black audience, but their messages transcend race. That is the beauty of the conservative message. We look beyond superficial traits like skin color and focus on values. This film speaks about a specific value system – seeing oneself as in control of a personal narrative, working through challenges and coming out stronger, accepting America as a terrific country of opportunity, and being rewarded for hard work. Every single American would become a better person having adopted such values, and the country would become better for it as well.
This film needs to be seen by everyone. Share the message!