You’re an Uncle Tom!: The Behavioral Regulation of Blacks on the Right Side of the Criminal Justice System
Brando Simeo Starkey
September 6, 2011
Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy, Forthcoming
This Article concerns the laws created to govern the behavior of blacks carrying influence within the criminal justice system. Two periods are discussed. In the 1960s to the early 1970s, blacks devised social laws targeting the black cop. Blacks held an image of the white cop as an agent of brutality, racism and injustice. Black cops deemed no different violated the social law that demanded blacks neither abuse their fellow race members nor disregard oppressive conditions in the criminal justice system. Uncle Tom accusations were the common penalty. In the ‘80s and the ‘90s, new social laws were constructed to govern the new influx of blacks who occupied positions of increased and varied authority from within the justice system. The same law that governed the behavior of the black cop remained on the books and was applied to lawyers, judges and the like. Two new laws, though, emerged. First, there was often an expectation that the “black insider,” so to speak, should use their status to generate positive outcomes for other blacks. And second, we observe blacks involved in a specific altercation define the boundaries of blackness and make adherence to those boundaries a condition of racial loyalty. Those contravening these social laws were considered disloyal and frequently branded as Uncle Toms.
In this Article, I argue that in response to legal and social subordination, blacks, at least those interested in the task, created a system of law to regulate behavior. The venture’s purpose was to encourage the racial solidarity crucial to contest legal subordination and societal ostracism. Especially critical components of these cultural laws were those laws drafted to govern the actions of blacks working or possessing influence from within the criminal justice system. This Article follows Uncle Tom in effort to trace the development, maintenance and enforcement of these social laws.
Date posted: September 7, 2011 ; Last revised: July 12, 2012
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