Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rush Limbaugh's Calling African Americans Who Voted For Thad Cochran "Uncle Toms"- Did He Correctly Use That Term?

Edited by Azizi Powell

I happened to read an article about Republican radio commenter Rush Limbaugh's use of the term "Uncle Tom" in his show today to refer to African Americans who voted for Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran in his run off election with state Senator Chris McDaniels. I wondered if Limbaugh and his listeners know what "Uncle Tom" means when it is used to refer to a Black man or a Black woman. And if so, I wonder if Limbaugh correctly Limbaugh used that term.

Here's an excerpt of that article:
From "Conservative Freakout Blames 'Uncle Tom' And Voter Fraud For McDaniel Loss" by Daniel Strauss – June 25, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT
"Some conservatives aren't happy that their preferred candidate, state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) lost to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in the runoff of the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Mississippi. Many tea party types are openly speculating foul play and that Democrats and black voters were involved. Take Rush Limbaugh who wondered if Cochran's campaign slogan in Mississippi over the last few days was "Uncle Toms for Thad."

"I wonder what the campaign slogan was in Mississippi the past few days, 'Uncle Toms for Thad'? Because I thought it was the worst thing you could do as an African American, vote for a Republican. The worst thing you could do," Limbaugh said on Wednesday. "But somehow they were made to believe that voting for old Thad would be fine and dandy. And why? Because they were told Thad's done a lot for black people in Mississippi. Must be the first time they were told that."

Cochran's turnaround victory in the race on Tuesday was immediately met with criticism by McDaniel and tea partiers over his strategy of reaching out to not only Republicans but also Democrats and African-Americans, a move that dismayed tea partiers but isn't illegal under Mississippi's open primary laws.”...
Putting aside whether or not it is true that "the worst thing you could do as an African American [is to] vote for a Republican", notice that Limbaugh said that the reason why African Americans voted for Republican Thad Cochran was "Because they were told Thad's done a lot for black people in Mississippi."

Putting aside whether or not what Limbaugh said is true and the fact that in an open primary Black all people have the right to vote for whomever they choose, does an African American doing something that they feel would benefit a lot of black people fit the definition of an Uncle Tom?


"Uncle Tom is the title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The phrase "Uncle Tom" has also become an epithet for a person who is slavish and excessively subservient to perceived authority figures, particularly a black person who behaves in a subservient manner to white people; or any person perceived to be a participant in the oppression of their own group.[1][2] The negative epithet is the result of later works derived from the original novel."
While "Tom" is a male name, since at least the 1980s the phrase "Uncle Tom" can refer to Black females as well as Black males. However, the term "Aunt Jemima" is also sometimes used as a referent for female "Uncle Toms".

"Aunt Jemima is a brand of pancake mix, syrup, and other breakfast foods currently owned by the Quaker Oats Company of Chicago. The trademark dates to 1893, although Aunt Jemima pancake mix debuted in 1889. The Quaker Oats Company first registered the Aunt Jemima trademark in April 1937.[1] Aunt Jemima originally came from a minstrel show as one of their pantheon of stereotypical African American characters. Aunt Jemima appears to have been a postbellum addition to that cast...

The term "Aunt Jemima" is sometimes used colloquially as a female version of the derogatory label "Uncle Tom". In this context, the slang term "Aunt Jemima" falls within the "Mammy archetype" and refers to a friendly black woman who is perceived as obsequiously servile or acting in, or protective of, the interests of whites.[17] The 1950s television show Beulah came under fire for depicting a "mammy"-like black maid and cook who was somewhat reminiscent of Aunt Jemima."
Also read this excerpt from my pancocojams post on "Puttin On The Black" ("puttin on the black" is my term for Black people purposely using forms of "Black talk" online): "Puttin On The Black - Online Black Talk & Code Switching"
"The use of the retired referent for African Americans "negro" deserves special attention.
When contemporary (particularly post 1970s) African Americans use the word "negro" as a referent for any other Black person they are purposely insulting that person by inferring that he or she is acting in ways that are the same as or similar to "Uncle Toms". "Uncle Toms" and their female counterparts "Aunt Jemimas" are Black people who act obsequiously towards White people who are in authority. Those actions by those Black people work against the well being of other Black people. However, the Uncle Toms (and Aunt Jemimas) may believe and usually do believe that they are acting in ways that benefit themselves as individuals.

While the referent "negro" is especially potent when the "n" is spelled with a lower case letter, when that word is spelled with an upper case "N" it has nearly the same meaning. Calling someone an "Uncle Tom" or an "Aunt Jemima" can have the same meaning as the word "negro" or "Negro".

Bottom line - while the use of the words "negro", "Uncle Tom" and/or "Aunt Jemima" by Black people online to describe other Black folks may be examples of "puttin on the Black", that communication is usually highly insulting. In contrast, many online instances of “putting on the black” appear to be playful. And a Black person being called an "Uncle Tom" is never considered something playful."
Returning to Limbaugh's use of the term "Uncle Toms" to refer to African Americans who voted for Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran, what other reasons could those Black voters have had to vote for Cochran? Maybe their vote for Cochran was, at least in part, a vote against Cochran's opponent. Here are two comments about that Senate primary run-off from the Democratic political blog "Daily Kos"
From Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 08:31 PM PDT. "Thad Cochran survives thanks to Democrats" by kos

[a tongue in cheek reference by a state Senator Chris McDaniels' supporter to a newspaper photograph of Senator Cochran shaking a Black man's hand]

"OMG look at Senator Cochran
Shaking hands with a BLACK person! In all seriousness Cochran played things very well the past week. McDaniel supporters made a colossal mistake with the "poll watcher" fiasco. African-Americans in Mississippi reacted predictably to what was obviously an attempt at voter suppression."
by ChadmanFL on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 08:35:44 PM PDT
I must agree. If AAs went to the polls today, it was a proper response to Teabaggers using the voter suppression card to get their candidate on the ballot. Seriously do they not know their history in Mississippi of all places? That is not a tiger you want to poke..."
by Hushes on Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 09:04:39 PM PDT
There are other comments on that blog post and throughout the Internet that refer to Senator Chris McDaniels as an out and out racist. But regardless of that, if his actions were against the best interest of Black people and they voted for his opponent, they certainly weren't acting like "Uncle Toms".

These two videos are presented for their historical and cultural value, and not because I agree or disagree with their content.

Steve Harvey Calls Tavis Smiley & Cornel West Uncle Toms For Criticizing Obama

ChasinDatPaperMedia, August 10, 2011
Click for a lengthy summary statement.

Cornel West Calls Out Uncle Tom Herman Cain

ExposingUncleToms, October 13, 2011

Cornel West and Tavis Smiley call out this Token Sellout Cain for calling the Wall Street protestors anti-Americans.

The content of this post is presented for historical and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and the publishers of these featured videos.

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1 comment:

  1. In an earlier version of this post I referred to the saying "Negro please". That rather familiar [among African American] saying is said when you want to let another Black person know that you're aware that he or she is talking crap. A shortened-much more socially correct form of that saying is "Yeah, right" (said sarcastically).

    urban's definition refers to this saying using "ni&&a" instead of "Negro" and using the word "bs" instead of "crap". I'm not linking to that page because of its x rated content.

    The word "Negro" in that saying doesn't refer to an Uncle Tom. There's no question that "Uncle Tom" is a negative referent. I consider the contemporary use of the word "Negro" in that saying. to be a put down, but some African Americans might not view that word as negative in that context.

    I don't like the "n word" in any of its forms in any context (even when that word shows up in the lyrics of late 19th/early 20th century secular songs that were collected by African American professor Thomas W. Talley as part of his now classic book Negro Folk Songs: Wise & Otherwise. However, some Black people disagree with me as to whether the "ni&&a" form of that word or the other form of that word is offensive - in the context of that saying or in some other contexts.