Larry Elder’s film “Uncle Tom” is a must-see for anybody who thinks all black people think alike or that American black history is simply a history of victimhood. They’re black, they’re proud, and they’re all-American—just like the film they’re in.
While it is unlikely that blacks will vote as a majority for Donald Trump or the Republican party in the 2020 term, what is of interest both to Democrats and Republicans in this election is whether a larger-than-average number votes for Mr. Trump and whether Democratic black voters will be persuaded to turn out enough to push Mr. Biden over the top. The modern Democratic national election strategy depends in large part on drawing supermajorities of black voters voting in large numbers. Madame Clinton got 88% of the black vote in 2016 (as compared to President Obama’s 93% in 2012), but that was not enough even though President Trump drew only 8%. Some polling data show that his support might be double that in this cycle. Maybe not, but when one sees even the New York Times reporting that Mr. Trump is increasing minority votes, one knows something is happening. Even if black voters refrain from pulling the lever for Mr. Trump but don’t show up for Mr. Biden, the Democrats are in serious trouble.
This dependence on black support is one reason why prominent black entertainment figures such as Kanye West, Ice Cube, and 50 Cent, who all announced support for Trump, have been subjected to a torrent of social and old-fashioned media abuse. The rapper 50 Cent, who made his endorsement of President Trump after looking the Biden tax plans (he didn’t want to be, he said, “20 Cent”), was excoriated publicly by his ex-girlfriend, the purported comedian Chelsea Handler. She told media sources she had to “remind” the rapper that he “was black.” He backed down eventually. This strategy has been used broadly by Democrats for years, and this year is no exception. Mr. Biden told radio host Charlamagne tha God that “you ain’t black” if you don’t know whether to vote for President Trump or him.
We’ll see soon (pray that it is soon) how the vote, black and otherwise, turns out. But that the black vote is a live existential question for Democrats in this cycle is largely because of the man Democrats all “know” is racist: President Trump. Radio host and author Larry Elder’s documentary Uncle Tom, released in June of this year, is not simply about Donald Trump, but one very vivid segment of the documentary covers the anomaly of his appeal to black voters.
Though it’s clear that the timing of the film was designed to help drive support at the polls, a pure propaganda film would be very different. Though Mr. Elder and most of the talking heads in the film, who include both a number of ordinary people and also some of the most well-known black conservatives out there like Robert Woodson, Candace Owens, Allen West, the late Herman Cain, academic Carol Swain, and Mr. Elder himself, are certainly in favor of Donald Trump and the Republican Party, there is a difference between their discussion of the former and the latter.
President Trump famously asked black voters in 2016, “What do you have to lose?” and was excoriated for it. Democrats, he argued, have made promises for years that really have not panned out in terms of education, opportunity, and overall welfare for black people. But, as Allen West, former U.S. Representative from Florida and current chairman of the Republican Party in Texas, observes in the film, “He was right.” In his time in office, President Trump has made many more appeals to black voters that are more insistent—and he can point out not only that before COVID and the far-worse lockdowns, black unemployment was at an all-time low, but also that fewer black people are in prisons. The problem, however, as the film makes very clear, is that Mr. Trump is an unusual sort of Republican, which is why Candace Owens can call his presidency “a window of opportunity.”
Republicans have been terrible at outreach to blacks since the great realignment at the time of the New Deal when black voters began slowly migrating to the Democratic Party despite the fact that its southern wing, especially, was the bulwark of segregation and Jim Crow. Carol Swain, an academic and sometime politician, laments that she was rebuked during a run for mayor of Nashville when she spent time campaigning in minority neighborhoods: “Don’t waste your time in minority communities. Hunt where the ducks are.” As if there are no black ducks. The GOP then (and often) “gave up,” she says, on black people even though a lot of Republican ideas and policies correspond to the values held by large percentages of black people. As Robert Woodson bluntly says, “Conservatives are really bad at marketing good ideas.” The thought occurs to the viewer that conservatives aren’t called the “stupid party” for nothing.
What comes through in the film is an occasional deep loneliness on the part of black conservatives who are too often ignored by conservatives and denigrated as not only Uncle Toms but also race traitors, coons, oreos, skinfolk-not-kinfolk, and half a dozen other slurs to indicate that they cannot be accepted by other black people if they deviate in ideology or party affiliation from the liberal/progressive mold and the Democratic Party. “The most hated person in America,” one interviewee says, “is a black conservative.” Yet the loneliness isn’t the last word. Most of the figures, both the famous and the non-famous ones, lament the nastiness and pressure put on them by whites and blacks alike but nevertheless are proud to stand out. A number of them describe their departure from left-liberalism and the Democratic Party as an “escape from the plantation.” The most charming character in the film is the late businessman and quondam presidential candidate Herman Cain who observes that his response to you-ain’t-black vitriol is to quote his illiterate grandfather, “I does not care.”
Mr. Cain recounts his own youth and discoveries that while racism existed, not everything was about racism. He tells of an early engineering job in which his performance matched a white colleague’s, but the colleague got the promotion. When he asked why, his supervisor told him the colleague had gotten a master’s degree. Mr. Cain promptly earned a master’s degree himself and got the next big promotion. He also notes that when he left that company, his boss told him that Mr. Cain had taught him not to judge people by the color of their skin.
Black conservatives are often accused of denying that racism or prejudice exists. This is, to put it bluntly, a lie. What they contest are the dictums that nothing has changed in America and that the problems of black people in America can all be laid at the feet of current racism and, especially, past slavery and Jim Crow. The subtitle of the film is “An Oral History of the American Black Conservative,” and there is a great deal of narrative in the film about the amazing gains of blacks from the time of Reconstruction on. While the 1619 Project wants to say that slavery is the defining aspect of America for black Americans, Robert Woodson, chairman of the 1776 Project, speaks in the film of having a realistic view of America in which the response to slavery and racism is given just as much attention as the problems. And he, like many of the other speakers, gives statistical and historical evidence that the social and financial health and mobility of black Americans was actually better during Jim Crow than after it. The speakers recount the history of black Wall Street, the Harlem Renaissance, and figures such as Booker T. Washington, who founded institutions that are still operating today to truly empower black people. The claim, Robert Woodson says, that black dysfunction is attributable slavery and Jim Crow “is a lie.”
Readers of scholars such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Shelby Steele will be aware of these historical anomalies. Reviews of Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam’s new book Upswing indicate that this history is seeping even into some Ivy League consciousness. This reminds me of the late James Q. Wilson’s observation that, concerning data on the superior outcomes of the two-parent family, there is so much of it “that some social scientists now believe it.” Wilson’s observation is apropos in more ways than one. For just as black conservatives are fearless in denying the narrative about racism, so too are they fearless about proclaiming the truth about the necessity of fathers and intact families—and the resulting lawlessness among black youths when this is not normative. While welfare and government services have proliferated since the 1960s, there are extraordinary problems in the black community because, as Carol Swain bluntly puts it, “Government cannot raise a family.”
Why is it that the black family fell apart? Clearly, the broader societal rejection of Christian morality is important. One of the figures on screen most is a young black entrepreneur who talks about how his conversion to Christianity provoked his questioning of his own liberal-left political beliefs. But the film puts the institutional blame squarely on theorists like the married couple Cloward and Piven, who aimed at helping people by separating men from women and work from income. They were joined by feminists and black power advocates. The end result was intoxicating to the progressive mind, but the hangover was felt by several generations of brokenness, dependence, and the resulting crime in neighborhoods where work and married men were scarce. As Jesse Lee Peterson, a Christian minister and radio host featured in the film, puts it, “The welfare state is slavery 2.0.” The figures in the film think black lives matter, which is why they, unlike the organization of that name, focus on the real danger from black crime springing from fatherless black boys. If there’s institutional racism afoot, one might point to elite theories and policies that destroyed the institution of the family.
Herman Cain lays out the secrets for success of black conservatives: faith in God, faith in self, and faith in the promise of the United States. The people focused on in this film demonstrate all three of these virtues in abundance. What they also demonstrate is an understanding of history that has been hidden by our educational and infotainment establishments. Why is it that young black people are taught about LeBron James and various rappers but not about Booker T. Washington, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams? The answer is that to do so would provide intellectual and political alternatives that are not conducive to progressive thinkers for whom, as Rev. Peterson observes, advocacy for black people is really limited to “left-wing black people.”
Larry Elder’s film is a must-see for anybody who thinks all black people think alike or that American black history is simply a history of victimhood. The figures in the movie ain’t black? Not on your life. They’re black, they’re proud, and they’re all-American—just like the film they’re in.
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 For information on how to view it, see the website.
 For more on the failures of liberal/progressive cities in terms of education, see my essay, “Thinking Progressively by Acting Conservatively.”
The featured image is courtesy of IMDb.