Recently, Larry Elder’s documentary on black American history, Uncle Tom, was relasased and possible to purchase online in streaming or DVD format. I bought the streaming version for 20 USD and here are my thougths on this piece of work.
As a young white middle-class person in Sweden you are literally speaking very distanced from the black community in America. At the same time you have grown up thinking that these black rappers are the coolest persons in the world, and as silly as it may seem, you consider them to be respectable or virtuous, almost noble individuals. (Personally, I started listening to rap music in 1995.) They know about the ghetto and real rap music, whose lyrics treat real issues whereas white kids from northern Europe could at most say something about girls, friends, and having fun. You are also told that one of the laws of nature is racism against blacks.
There are nuances to these phenomena, because racism – in particular from a historical perspective – is real and American rap music is sometimes actually quite good. It is problematic in many ways but that is how things are. A whole generation has been spoonfed by the media to like music genres like hiphop, the same way that Americans are spoonfed by the welfare state.
Nonetheless, when listening to the discourse from really intelligent persons like Thomas Sowell and Larry Elder, who have a factual, rational and anti-victimhood mindset, things can be turned upside down. Fact after fact after fact tells you something which is diametrically opposite to the grand narrative of left-leaning academia, media, politics and whatnot.
As of 2015 I had already learned most of these things, because I have been a freethinker – taught by the mentality of the likes of John Stuart Mill and José Ortega y Gasset – since 2006 and always looked at things more independently, in parallel with conventional academic studies and later on also my own published research. However, Uncle Tom teaches you about these issues in a more concise way and in a more beautiful presentation. This is not, at least primarily, an emotional documentary but it has some ingredients that are quite touching.
From a rigorous social scientific point of view, a sound skepticism is appropriate. When looking into the issue of the welfare state’s impact on America, black Americans in particular, it is important to remind yourself of post hoc ergo propter hoc. In other words, can the welfare state be fully blamed for these social and economic consequences or are more factors at work? To reductionistically point to a single factor might be misleading. How about the war on drugs and the entertainment industry’s influence? These things are barely touched upon.
The same might be said about the notion that Barack Obama has been the most divisive American president in regard to race relations. That might be correct, but there are other factors at play. The post-Marxist, intersectional political correctness movement has emerged over decades – within the media and academia – and appears to be growing under the presidency of Donald Trump, although many are against it. The roots are from the Soviet Union, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, the 1968 student revolts, intersectional third wave feminism around 1990, fourth wave digital feminism around 2011 onward, and so forth.
Moreover, at times this documentary seems like a campaign video of the Republican party. It is nice to see that the black community is not monolithic and that somewhat hidden or untold facts about the Democratic Party’s past are now resurfacing, but there is a thin line between such a perspective and pure propaganda. Perhaps double ironically, the film is using a black and white filter. On the other hand, some of these cuts are among the most entertaining, such as the person with a huge MAGA hat rapping about Donald Trump and the greatness of the Republican Party.
All in all, Uncle Tom is a quite strong, interesting and worthwhile documentary. It will preach to some who are already followers, gain some more acolytes, and add fresh perspectives to skeptics.
Ps. For a great conversation among black liberals and conservatives, watch this video.