Uncle Tom: An Oral History of the American Black Conservative

DVD REVIEW: 

Xenon Pictures;
Documentary;
$24.98 DVD;
Not Rated.
Features Larry Elder, Herman Cain, Candace Owens, Carol Swain, Col. Allen B. West, Brandon Tatum. 

Bowing in the contentious political environment of the national presidential election, this documentary is as provocative as its title.

Featuring a collection of intimate interviews with some of America’s Black conservative thinkers, mixed with historical and news footage, Uncle Tom: An Oral History of the American Black Conservative takes a different look at being black in America.

Featuring media personalities, ministers, civil rights activists, veterans and a self-employed plumber, among others, the film explores black conservatives’ personal journeys of navigating the world as one of America’s most misunderstood political and cultural groups.

The film — from director-producer-writer Justin Malone, who is white, and writer-executive producer Larry Elder, a prominent black conservative talk show host who also appears in the film — examines self-empowerment, individualism and rejecting the victim narrative.

“An Uncle Tom is someone who sold out and embraced the white man by rejecting the idea that you’re a victim,” Elder explains in the film (the label stems from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin). Interviewees embrace such derisive terms almost as a badge of honor, reveling in their outsider status in the black community. Activist Jesse Lee Peterson even boasts of a “Coon of the Year” award that sits on his mantel. Indeed, these black conservatives stress that they see things differently than many others, criticizing such black leaders as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and even Barack Obama, who they say said some of the right things but also betrayed them by playing the race card.

“We refute the entire philosophy of the Democratic Party,” says activist Candace Owens, one of the more strident critics of the left.

These black conservatives see the welfare and social safety net system as a form of oppression that prevents black Americans from learning to be self-sufficient and succeed.

Indeed, the film chronicles the accomplishments of several black conservatives, including former Republican presidential candidate and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson, a top neurosurgeon. One particularly touching moment occurs in an interview with businessman and another former Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, who died of COVID-19 in July. Cain tears up, telling viewers that a boss once said of him: “You taught me you don’t judge somebody by the color of their skin.”

Uncle Tom also shows a different perspective of American History from this often-ignored group. They highlight historic figures such as Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglas and the accomplishments of the black community in the late 1800s before the rise of Jim Crow led by the Southern Democrats. Indeed, these speakers note the Republican Party should be credited with supporting black Americans, rather than the Democratic. They blame the Democratic Welfare State for destroying black fathers and families.

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Those on the left may find some of these opinions infuriating, but the documentary does a thorough job of laying out the viewpoint of the black conservative, from politicians and activists such as Elder, Owens, Cain and Carol Swain to the self-employed plumber Chad O. Jackson, who found religion and satisfaction in owning his own business. If one wants to understand how such black conservatives see the world, Uncle Tom offers a pretty comprehensive overview in less than two hours.

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