Racial slur “Uncle Tim” trends on Twitter following Republican Senator Tim Scott’s speech

On Wednesday night, President Joe Biden addressed the joint session of Congress in a speech after his first one hundred days in office. South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott delivered the rebuttal to Biden’s speech.

Shortly after, the phrase “Uncle Tim” became a trending topic on Twitter. Even before the name trended, Senator Scott mentioned the use of racial slurs in his speech. “I get called ‘Uncle Tom’ and the n-word by progressives, by liberals,” he said. “Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time,” referencing a Washington Post ‘fact check’ of his family history (Yahoo News). 

The racial slur flooded the social media site all throughout Wednesday night and caught the attention of national media. “Uncle Tim” is a play on words of the phrase “Uncle Tom,” an offensive term referring to an African American who “has betrayed their race for white people” (RT).

An example of this was posted by Tariq Nasheed  who said, “When Uncle Tim Scott says America is not a racist country, he is fully aware he is speaking in bad faith.” Many users criticized Twitter for allowing this topic to trend, citing the platform’s “hateful conduct policy” which prohibits “repeated and/or non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes, or other content that degrades someone” (Help.Twitter.Com). One user said, “‘Uncle Tim’ is trending on Twitter right now because apparently it’s okay to use racist epithets as long as they’re directed at a Republican.” After receiving so much backlash for openly allowing such a word to trend on their site, Twitter blocked the trending topic on Thursday morning. 

A Twitter spokesperson told Fox News that the decision to do so is “in line with our policies on Trends,” noting that the company aims “to promote healthy conversations on Twitter…  This means that at times, we may not allow or may temporarily prevent content from appearing in Trends until more context is available” (Fox News). Senator Scott responded to the trending label and Twitter’s decision to remove it. “It has been an amazing morning with so many good people calling, but the left has doubled down. You cannot step down out of your lane according to the liberal elite left,” Scott said Thursday during an appearance on Fox News. “What they want for us is for us to stay in a small corner and not go against the tide that they think is America,” he continued.

“Their America and my America are not the same if they think that discriminating is the fastest way to end discrimination” (National Review). He also called the use of the slur “upsetting” and “so disappointing,” saying that Twitter users “are literally attacking the color of my skin” (Yahoo News). However, even though Twitter removed the slur from its trending page, users are still permitted to use the term in their individual tweets. Its removal of the phrase “Uncle Tim” while users can still openly use the phrase has raised concerns with Twitter’s enforcement of policy guidelines. 





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