— Sally Kohn
So I just finished reading “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and I have a few things to say about it and about people using such a powerful character’s epithet as an insult. It might be too late to reshape the idea we now have of what an uncle tom is but there is still time to choose not to use Uncle Tom’s name as an insult. If you have ever read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin then you would understand how annoyed I am that people think calling someone an uncle tom is insulting. I personally think that to be called an Uncle Tom based on how the character was originally written is actually something to be proud of. Uncle Tom reminded me of Jesus, Gandhi, MLK and everyone who stood up to their oppressors without ever resorting to violence. He was not a weak person nor did he ever behave in a subservient manner to his masters. He loved when he was loved, and loved when he was hated. The man was the strongest character of the whole story (obviously that’s because Beecher Stowe was trying to show how close to God the African slaves could be and were, and the strength of character they were capable of showing), and everything about him inspired me.
It’s easy to hate, folks, too easy to do so. But it is a hell of a lot harder to love your fellow human being whether or not they return that love. Uncle Tom hated no one, he understood how vile some people were (both Black and White) and in no way made excuses for them instead he (as a Christian) felt that it was his duty to pray that they become better and to wish that their souls be brought to God. Uncle Tom’s religious beliefs were intense and they got him through his toils. He refused to whip a fellow field hand because he said it was against his beliefs to commit any such act, and as you can imagine, that did not go well with his master. Tom died because he would not tell his last master where two of the runaway slaves were hiding, he knew it, but he was ready to die and did so that these two slaves could make it out safely. The man supported his fellow slaves, did things for them that warranted him severe punishment yet today we call people uncle toms as if he was some weak docile animal. I don’t care if he is a fictional character, what I care about is that Tom showed us that fighting did not have to include hatred or violence.
If anything he should be an inspiration. There are ways of “standing up to the man” that do not involve violent protest. We’ve seen great examples of peaceful protest and it would be a lie to say that they can’t be effective. There is so much we can still learn from reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin and lots we can forgive Beecher Stowe for doing wrong in the novel, she wrote it from a very personal place and her intent was to present the slaves as human beings worth fighting for and it did it. It may not have changed anything in terms of the rampant racism that existed and still exists today but it sure made people think. In some ways some of her words are still very relevant to contemporary society thus my satisfaction with my decision to read this classic.
PS: Beecher Stowe couldn’t predict how this would end but she was already considering the possibility of American society’s continued oppression of the Black American. She wanted to know how many would be willing to accept the freed slaves into their societies, how many would give them a chance. The answer is, not very many. America has failed and continues to fail so many of its people. It’s the 21st century, when the f is all the ignorance and oppression going to stop?
Just now I stood in front of the mirror and smiled at myself. It’s not something I allowed myself to do much of in the past. Everyone should be entitled to that feeling of love and empowerment that comes when you are at a point in your life where you can look at yourself in the mirror and see how beautiful you are no matter what, inside and outside. I am not perfect but I am perfectly beautiful.