I was at the family home, on 92nd. I was ranting and raving, calling certain black leaders “Uncle Toms.” My dad, who was just a plain working-class carpenter, got angry and said, “Boy, what the HELL you talk’n about!! Don’t you know that the white man is the biggest Uncle Tom on earth!!??”
Wow! I was stunned. He had always told my brother and me about his experiences on construction job sites. He talked about how chicken-shit (cowardly) white men were. For instance, if the architect’s plans for a certain section of the construction site were not going to work, my dad would express that to his fellow white carpenters. He said, though, that they were all, to the man, deathly afraid to say anything to the foreman.
My dad wasn’t. He’d go to the foreman. And the foreman was the same way. He’d say, “Nate, just put it up. Don’t make any waves, Nate.” My dad wasn’t one to cow down to anybody. So, whenever the architect showed up, he’d tell him. Dad could see the foreman standing there shitting in his pants. The architect, arrogantly, would say, “Who are YOU to tell ME about design!!!”
Well, they’d put the structure up, and sure enough it would literally collapse. My dad–and I didn’t know this until my brother told me, some five years ago–had studied architecture at Roosevelt University, in Chicago. So, he was not just a carpenter.
Anyway, I sometimes think that the spineless white folks are the ones that are holding back human progress. And now, having lived life, it seems to me that my dad was right: White folks are “the biggest Uncle Toms on earth.” I still hope and pray, though, for some kind of cultural or spiritual awakening of some type, amongst white folks. It can happen.