Uncle Thomas Goes to Washington

The Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas incident has been resurrected in the media recently due to the publishing of a new book by Hill, and the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Thomas’ confirmation hearings. It also marks an anniversary of sorts for me. Twenty years ago I wrote the following poem about Thomas. I prefaced it with a comment made by the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall upon learning of Thomas’ nomination to replace him on the court: “There’s no difference between a black snake and a white snake. They both bite.”

UNCLE THOMAS GOES TO WASHINGTON

rastus rattles his chains

scratches his brains

rolls his eyes

and dreams of torching

the big white house on the hill

 

ceasar pompey fetches massa’s cane

and a fresh mint julep

averts his eyes

when miss lucy flashes her pink tits

and dreams of spear tips dripping with blood

 

old black joe shuffles down to the quarters

to fetch his fiddle

beads of sweat grace his forehead

like a crown of thorns

he dreams of drums that speak ancestral voices

 

nat turner reaches for a machete

and runs screaming into the night

he has dreamed of black men

kneeling in blood on the court house steps

 

one hundred and sixty years later

a small minded coon

from pinpoint Georgia

has his dream come true

 

clarence thomas

(know affectionately to one and all as uncle thomas)

disembarks from the chicken bone express

carpet bag in hand

and searches for the colored restroom

 

he has come a long way

along the path paved with black flesh

he has come a long way

stepping over the blood soaked bodies

of medgar malcolm, martin

and the countless others who died

so his american dream

could become an american tragedy

 

he has come a long way

the great grandson of slaves

grandson of sharecroppers

son of nuns

who after years of faithful house niggering

is finally nearing the end of his journey

to supreme and eternal boyhood

 

it is his american dream

that brought him to the plantation house

to hear massa announce that he is

“the best man for the job”

 

it is his american dream that unfolds in black and white

as he stands before the press corps

choking back the tears

hardly knowing how to show his appreciation

wondering if it’s proper etiquette

to kiss the president’s ass in public

 

it is his american dream that guides each step

as he marches backwards into history

past the wrought iron fence of the white house

past the caucasianized statue of alexander hamilton

in front of the u.s. treasury building

past the fbi building where the ghost of j. edgar hoover

minces thru the hallways chewing on uncircumcised cigars

 

and up the gently sloping avenue to capitol hill

to the steps of the supreme court building

to stare longingly at the entrance

and say a silent prayer that he, uncle thomas

(three fifths of a man according to the constitutional ideals

of the founding masters)

is appointed caretaker and guardian

of white male supremacy

for the rest of his life

 

there stands he

poised on the threshold of infamy

ready to replace little black sambo

as the eternal gatekeeper to the American dream

ready to bar the entrance of those

who lack the proper understanding of their place

their true place

on the big plantation

 

uncle thomas knows his place

knows and respect as sacrosanct

the constitution written by slavemasters for slavemasters

the bill of rights written by white men for white men

 

uncle thomas knows his place

a degree in house nigger has he

 

“the best man for the job”

 

graduated from yale law school thanks to affirmative action

 

“the best man for the job”

 

served as a lower court judge for sixteen months

 

“the best man for the job”

 

fought the good fight against the rights

of minorities women and senior citizens

while chairboy of the eeoc

 

“the best man for the job”

 

there’s a new sheriff in town folks

he ain’t nowhere near as thurgood as the last marshall

he’s just a deputy dawg on a leash

trying not to pee on the carpet

while waiting for his master

to take him for a walk into the past

 

he will wait without a whimper

he was trained by the best

his master knows

“the best man for the job”

is a boy named thom ass

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2 thoughts on “Uncle Thomas Goes to Washington

  1. OOOOO, I LOVE THIS PIECE! MY NATURAL INCLINATION IS TO REVIEW & COMMENT & CRITIQUE EACH LINE, EACH CHORUS, EACH STANZA! BUT I THINK I SHALL RESIST & JUST READ IT AGAIN & AGAIN! IT IS SO WELL-WRITTEN. THE METAPHORS ARE STUNNING & EN-POINTE! I AM SOOOO IMPRESSED & POSITIVELY INFLUENCED AS A WRITER, BY THE POEM & THE COMMENTS, JOHN! THANK YOU! YOU STILL “GOT IT”!

    • Thanks, Dr. Kuku. It was written a long time ago. I attempted back then to capture the moment in time when he was nominated: his appearance at the White House with George Bush, Sr., his choking back the tears, and Bush’s obvious lie that “he was the best man for the job”.

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