The epithet comes from the title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 19th century anti-slavery novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and typically it is construed as an insult meaning a black person who acts passively or submissively toward whites.
The Tom caricature portrays Black men as faithful, happily submissive servants. The Tom caricature, as with the Mammy Caricature, was born in ante-bellum America in the defense of slavery. How could slavery be wrong, argued its proponents, if Black servants, males (Toms) and females (Mammies) were contented, loyal servants? The Tom is presented as a smiling, wide-eyed, dark skinned server: fieldworker, cook, butler, porter, or waiter. Unlike the Coon, the Tom is portrayed as a dependable worker, eager to serve. Unlike the Brute, the Tom is docile and non-threatening to Whites. The Tom is often old, physically weak, psychologically dependent on Whites for approval. In his book, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, & Bucks, Donald Bogle summarizes the depiction of Toms in movies:
Always as toms are chased, harassed, hounded, flogged, enslaved, and insulted, they keep the faith, n'er turn against their white massas, and remain hearty, submissive, stoic, generous, selfless, and oh-so-very kind. Thus they endear themselves to white audiences and emerge as heroes of sorts.
The "Uncle Tom" slur has even been appropriated by other ethnic groups to exert in-group pressures on their members. A Native American, for example, who is believed to be too friendly with or admiring of Whites, is called an "Uncle Tomahawk"; Chinese Americans use the term "Uncle Tong." Even W.E.B. DuBois, arguably the greatest, most sustained civil rights voice of the 20th Century, was called an "Uncle Tom" -- by Marcus Garvey, who added that DuBois was "purely and simply a White man's nigger."
Recently I have received a few notes from some tired Negros or maybe it is leftist white people perpetrating a fraud by pretending to be outraged Negros all have used the term “Uncle Tom” while e-mailing me.
If the people who are sending me these notes only knew how funny and amused I am by folks calling me this, in fact I see it as a badge of honor.
Really!? Seriously!?…. some of you folks are still using the Uncle Tom theme to disparage Negros like myself as if we are just going to crawl up in a ball and whimper away like a little bitch because you call us Toms just because some of us have the guts to call out you simple minded, trifling, butt receptacles for the Democrat Party!?
If you folks want to call us Tom’s out at least grow a pair and force the brain to string together at least a few lines of coherent thought.
I find it funny that “I” am the “Tom” and "I" am the one with and image problem I guess these people don’t: