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Culture Documentary

A lonely road for black conservatives

(Malone Pictures)

Documentary

A lonely road for black conservatives

Uncle Tom offers a timely perspective

The rollout of the new documentary Uncle Tom is, in itself, evidence of its thesis that the media prefers to ignore or mock black conservatives rather than engage with their arguments.

Released six weeks ago, the film offers sharp perspectives on the most contentious political debates of recent months. And yet, while other recent documentaries on race like 13th and Whose Streets were rewarded with fawning news coverage, first-rate streaming deals, and numerous nominations, as of this writing, no major outlet has even bothered reviewing Uncle Tom. Perhaps that’s because a review would require admitting it’s pretty good.

Malone Pictures

(Malone Pictures)

Billing itself as an “An Oral History of the American Black Conservative,” the film features original interviews with well-known personalities like Larry Elder, Herman Cain, and Allen West, as well as archival footage of Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Ben Carson, and Kanye West. The first and most scattershot segment focuses on how their individual backgrounds either reinforced or challenged their right-wing views.  The next section cross-examines liberal sacred cows regarding racial division, such as micro-aggressions and privilege, contending they have little, if any, real-world impact today. The last and most engaging sequence presents a summary of African American political history. After illustrating how W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington offered divergent paths, it contends black well-being has decreased since their allegiance shifted to the Democratic Party and its introduction of poverty programs. 

Despite persuasive arguments and an appropriately long-term perspective that allows for only a few minutes on the presidency of Donald Trump, Uncle Tom suffers from an overreliance on pundits. Its most compelling insights come from people who’ve never been quoted in a Twitter or Facebook battle. Like a successful farmer who describes how she came to purchase her land. Or Chad Jackson, a contractor and small-business owner. 

Have you been so corrupted by Hollywood, media, academia, that I am your villain? Not the welfare state? Not bad economic policies?

Jackson shares that, for him, becoming a conservative was secondary to becoming a Christian. Shortly after his salvation, a friend challenged his belief that the Democratic Party offered him a better political home because it favors benefits for poor, urban communities. “Doesn’t the Bible say that we’re supposed to help poor people,” he asked his friend. When the friend asked whether Scripture was speaking about the government or individuals, Jackson reconsidered. “It was talking about me,” he decided. “And the way I saw things began to change.” 

Uncle Tom isn’t rated, but it includes a fair amount of bad language, including racial epithets. This is the rare case, however, where the profanity often proves a point. 

As we see vitriol, derision, and disingenuous concern thrown at Candace Owens, it becomes easier to understand what may be motivating her famously strident tone. At the least, it prompts us to consider whether we’re applying a higher standard to Owens than we do to other young African American commentators, and whether it’s fair for more established and respectable Republicans to dismiss her as a political grifter. Perhaps it’s only a tranquility born of experience that allows an old war horse like Elder to smile and say when racist names are thrown at him, “Have you been so corrupted by Hollywood, media, academia, that I am your villain? Not the welfare state? Not bad economic policies?”

While the film, understandably, feels targeted at black audiences, as it traces the lonely, comparatively thankless road of a conservative minority, it has a secondary effect of challenging white viewers to search their hearts as well. Are their political beliefs and social activism (whatever side they may fall on) really serving the interests of black Americans, it asks, or only serving their own images?

Editor's note: This review has been corrected; the documentary has no connection with the American Enterprise Institute.

Comments

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  • Steve SoCal
    Posted: Fri, 08/14/2020 11:48 am

    This does seem like a worthwhile documentary.  Of course we won't all agree with everything that has been said by each person featured.  I think the author has shown her bias by picking out Candace Owens from the crowd as one "we" might dismiss as a political "grifter" and "we" might have a hard time understanding her.  There are one or two others featured in the film who have said things much more off the wall, but overall it seems a pretty normal mix of political and/or religious conservatives.  Candace's tone can sound strident for sure, but when you are a female David facing and addressing a whole angry leftist army, maybe there's nothing wrong with speaking the truth loudly and clearly.  The sad part is when those who ought to understand her and support her instead sit back in their comfort and judge her because she isn't quite gentle and diplomatic enough while all the while her opposition is trying to tear down the country.  At least it appears that the author's initial bias about Candace has been challenged by the film.

  • DAW
    Posted: Tue, 08/18/2020 07:11 pm

    I have been so privileged to know many of the black conservatives in our movement.  Starting with Jay Parker in the 1960's and 70's who was a strong Christian and solid conservative YAF leader.  Going on to Walter Wlliams, Thomas Sowell, Kay Cole James, Robert Woodson, Star Parker, Dr. Mildred Jefferson and the list goes on and on. .Their courage in the black community is an inspiration to all conservatives to stick by our principles, regardless of popular opinion.  I am honord to have known them and to be inspired by their courage and humility.  God bless them.

  • BB
    Posted: Wed, 08/19/2020 04:45 pm

    My husband and I watched this the day it came out and loved it.  The interviews were fascinating and informative, we learned so much!  

  •  Pastor Jon's picture
    Pastor Jon
    Posted: Mon, 08/24/2020 02:19 am

    I can't find this documentary anywhere! Where do I look? 

    Jon Karn 

    pastorjon1@att.net 

  • Web Editor
    Posted: Mon, 08/24/2020 07:41 am

    The documentary can be viewed here.