Thursday Recommendation: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

I missed my posts the past two days because I was sick. I’m not actually going to link to this book because I don’t think anyone should pay for it. Find it in a library if you can.

Stay with me on this one.

If you have only heard about this book, you likely think it’s a stirring anti-slavery manifesto. If you have read the actual book, you understand it’s something quite different.

Written by an abolitionist, the book claims to care about the lives and fates of slaves in the American south before the Civil War. Yet it does so by infantilizing them, treating them like children and slavery like a system that is in place for their own good. They can’t take care of themselves. If only they had a good master (the book demonstrates several such “good” slave masters who are adored – by their FUCKING SLAVES) then they might have perfectly wonderful lives serving white people.

It’s not the book you’re expecting from an abolitionist, in other words.

But I think that’s why it’s important to read it, if you have access to it (and the stomach for it). Because these kinds of ideas still exist. This book basically encompasses the entire attitude of “I’m not racist, but…”

It is difficult to get through, for sure, but if you can, I think it’s an illuminating perspective, particularly if you are a white American. Today, those sorts of “I’m not racist, but…” attitudes are sometimes so quiet and so sneaky that we can’t even see or hear them. Here they are in such a bold, loud form that most modern people are left shocked that Stowe considered herself a person fighting for the freedom and rights of black people.

The book makes me wonder if someday people will look back at this time period and wonder how we allowed such brazenly racist shit to be deemed totally ok, not that bad, made up, exaggerated or deserving of a “chance.”


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