In Defense of Uncle Tom: Why Blacks Must Police Racial Loyalty was written to be a piece of law and social norms scholarship. It’s a legal history—I give a shout out to Al Brophy’s piece on Applied Legal History in the intro—but my foremost goal is to add to the law and social norms narrative. My claim is that marginalized peoples can, and often should, contest their legal marginalization by managing norms within their own communities. And as the title suggests, I believe that blacks should police racial loyalty which may or may not cause many to recoil in horror and others to rejoice. Fun stuff.
A more “established” argument in the law and social norms literature is that communities can settle disputes in the absence of law. One can check out Robert Ellickson’s Order without Law (1994) or Lisa Bernstein’s work on the diamond industry for good examples. Readers can correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen any work along these lines dealing with people of color.
For someone looking to apply the “settle disputes in the absence of law” thesis to black folk, I have a suggestion.
A black man named William Henry Holtzclaw, son of a slave, founded the Utica Institute in Northern Mississippi, the first black institution of higher education in the state. He also helped start The Black Belt Improvement Company, essentially an incorporated black improvement society in Utica, Mississippi. The BBIC established a Community Court of Justice, a totally independent "court" (it wasn't a real court), unaffiliated with the state. This court settled disputes of black people in the “Utica colony.”
One case concerned a gentleman who was alleged to have stolen some corn from a neighbor. Holtzclaw was the judge. There were “five jurymen.” Each side had a “court” appointed lawyer. The entire colony attended the trial. And after a while, the jury returned a verdict. The alleged thief had to pay court costs (no idea how much that was) and he was “warned that thereafter when he leaves a neighbor’s crib (I thought crib being slang for a home was a 1980s thing) he should carry his coat on his arm, so that the world can see that he has no corn.” (Taken from William H. Holtzclaw, The Black Man’s Burden (1915) a free google book)
Anyhow, seems like someone not named Brando can write a really interesting article about this.