Democratic Georgia state Sen. Emmanuel Jones called Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom” on Tuesday, while admitting he did not know the origin of the term.
Jones applied the label to Thomas during a debate over Senate Bill 69, which would place a monument to the justice in front of the state capitol building in Atlanta.
“In the black community, we have an expression — and I don’t want to use this label too deeply here because I’m just trying to tell you what we have in the African American community, when we talk about a person of color, that goes back historically to the days of slavery, and that person is betraying his own community — we have a term in the black community,” he said.
“That term that we use is called ‘Uncle Tom,’ and Uncle Tom is either a fictional or a non-fictional character, I don’t really know the origin of Uncle Tom, but it talks about a person who, back during the days of slavery, sold his soul to the slave masters,” Jones continued.
The Georgia state Senate voted 32-20 on Tuesday to commission the statue of the conservative justice, who grew up in Pin Point, Georgia, according to Savannah ABC affiliate WJCL 22. State Senate Democrats also put forth a failed amendment to place a statue of the civil rights activist and Georgia congressman John Lewis, who died in 2020, on the capitol grounds.
Having passed the state Senate, the bill is now set to move to the state House for a vote, the outlet reported.
The term “Uncle Tom” originates with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” In the 1852 anti-slavery novel, the character of Uncle Tom allows himself to be beaten to death rather than disclose the locations of two runaway slaves and then, on his deathbed, forgives the men who killed him. The term “Uncle Tom” later came to describe a black person who is subservient to white oppressors, according to NPR. (RELATED: Petition To Include Clarence Thomas In Black History Smithsonian Attracts Thousands)
Thomas, a conservative justice, has been subject to racial attacks from liberals in the past several years. The Washington Post quietly edited an article in Feb. 2022 that claimed Thomas’ rulings “resemble the political thinking of a White conservative.”
Democratic Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson called Thomas an “Uncle Tom” in 2014 during a New Nation of Islam radio show, and later doubled down on the remark.
MSNBC host Joy Reid called Thomas “Uncle Clarence” during the network’s live election coverage in Nov. 2020.
In January, “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin said it was “disrespectful” for former President George H.W. Bush to nominate Thomas to replace Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice.