During the time of slavery, on large plantations, the stereotypical view of the overseer was a man riding around the cotton fields on a horse, with a whip in his hand. His job was to see that slaves kept working. His ultimate responsibility was to take care of and protect the plantation owner's property; to make sure the owner's interests were not threatened in any manner. He would sometimes identify weak-minded slaves, or those who solicited special favors, to slip him information on any insurrections, or any actions harmful to the plantation owner.
When Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser were planning and actualizing their revolts against slave masters, all of them were betrayed by other slaves, who felt their allegiance should be towards their slave master, rather than their prospect of being freed. Although one could probably come up with some kind of explanation why someone would do such a thing, especially at the expense of their own freedom, it still turns out as a head scratching moment.
We don't hear it much now, but the term Uncle Tom was the common term used to describe such a person. We can speculate all day on what causes a person to act in such a manner. Paul Lawrence Dunbar, in his famous poem, 'We Wear The Mask,' provides a slight hint, or Franz Fanon's book, Black Skin White Mask.
Since it is an open discussion, and anyone can contribute towards an answer, here is one of many explanations. This traitorous kind of behavior falls under the category of mental illness. Such a person does not know who they are, where they came from, or what his/her people have done in the development of the world. In addition, if this person was raised among people of European descent, or conditioned or socialized by them, that individual is not only going to suffer from low self-esteem, but believe the myth that people of European descent are the only human group to model after and emulate.
It will inspire certain individuals to write books that basically degrade people of Afrikan descent, while on the modern plantation owner's payroll, such as Larry Elder's book, Stupid Black Men. These individuals are smart and intelligent, but realize that as long as they follow the script of denying that people of Afrikan descent are highly intelligent and have created the foundations for world development, they will be well paid, and will be the darlings of right-wing, conservative, anti-black personalities and institutions.
Thinking in this manner will cause a person of Afrikan descent to betray not only her/his own people, but one's self. It will later evolve into a serious identity crisis. This is a person, young or old, who needs serious historical training. It may take awhile, especially after fighting off the disbelief, to realize that his/her ancestors were the ones who created the foundation for the world today. There is hardly any civilization or institution that people of Afrikan descent did not have a direct or indirect influence.
Take for instance, the most common and accessible technical instrument used today, is the computer. The young generations, other than those who specialize in the field, are the most computer savvy of this time. In many cases, they have taught their parents and other older generations how to use them. They are probably not aware that the computer is a mathematical machine. Anything that occurs in a computer, whether word processing, graphics, database, etc., are calculated through mathematical codes. This may not have been possible without the creation of advance mathematics by Afrikans in the Nile Valley.
They created the foundation for the mathematical sciences used today; from arithmetic to physics. They were using advanced mathematics when designing and building those huge temples and pyramids. Architecture and engineering, which those same Afrikans brought to the world, are mathematical sciences. Astronomy, which was used in the design and placement of many of the temples, was also used. Washington D.C., in several instances, was architecturally designed under the principles as many of the ancient Kemetic (Egyptian) structures were.
Even today, when we look at the personal computer, Dr. Mark Dean, a computer scientist of Afrikan descent, and IBM Fellow and Vice President of Systems in IBM Research, has to be consistently mentioned. Dr. Dean, one of three inventors of the personal computer, holds more than 20 US Patents, including three of IBM's original nine PC patents. In 1997, he was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, joining two other noted black members, George Washington Carver and Dr. Percy Julian. In 1999, he led the team that built a gigahertz (1000 MHz) chip, which did a billion calculations per second.
This is just scratching the surface of what people of Afrikan descent have created on this planet. But if a person grows up knowing none of these facts, and the only training and social environment they are familiar with is from people of European descent, that individual is going to look down on his/her own people. Their thinking, promoted by the media, will have them believing they have done nothing of significance in world development, other than a legacy of slavery.
That is the root cause of people of Afrikan descent who suffer this mental illness, and turn against their own people, thinking this will get them white acceptance. The other side of that coin, no one likes a traitor, even if tolerated. They can never be trusted, and will never garner wholesale respect. Sure, many are well paid, but as soon as their usefulness has wore off, you can imagine what the next step is.
The unfortunate occurrence of present times, the same mentality of the black overseer on the slave plantations is still operative today. Those types of individuals are found in virtually every segment of society, especially among those who work in white environments, and are afraid of being who they are. One of the first indications can be found in their speech.
There are some individuals of Afrikan descent, if listening to them speak without seeing them, one would never know they were black. This is not to suggest that a person of Afrikan descent has to speak Ebonics to sound black, but they do have to try very hard to perfect that Euro-American speech pattern. There are some individuals of Afrikan descent who cannot help themselves. That is all they know and grew up with. By the same token, there are some individuals of Afrikan descent who sound like a Euro- American, but are very conscious. Speech is not the only variable. That is something one has to evaluate through behavior and actions.
When all is said and done, physical slavery may have been eradicated long ago, but mental slavery remains alive, evident in the continual existence of the black overseer.