Stop (Not) Snitching! Part 1
Despite having worked with troubled young people in one capacity or another for over the last decade, I still have to remind myself that although I myself was young once, today’s youth are growing up under a completely different social ethos…sometimes seemingly without the benefit of moral guidance. Whereas I and other Generation Xers grew up in an era when neighbors were expected to look out for one another as well as for potentially destructive elements to the comparative harmony of our neighborhoods, today’s young people are seemingly born with a genetic marker for the “It-Doesn’t-Concern-Me” gene…regardless of the broad view consequences. Take for example the relative recent concept of “Don’t Snitch,” an unspoken law of fact in ‘hoods throughout urban America, and most notably practiced among many within their ethnic minority communities.
While it’s no secret that crime is the biggest roadblock to socioeconomic uplift in many urban centers in this country, it’s less known that the biggest reason for crime’s seemingly unchecked growth in ‘the hood (s) is partially due to the mindset that the citizens living in these areas should avoid becoming involved in reporting criminal activity of any sort…despite their obvious stakes in doing so. This mindset is what contributes to the virtual free reign that many hard-core and wannabe criminals have when it comes to engaging in criminal activity, both major and minor. The fact is that this counter-productive way of thinking has become so ingrained among such a large underclass in our society that even when people are directly victimized, they would rather adhere to this questionable mantra rather than be known as a “snitch.” A testament to this insanity is an incident reported in the Chicago Sun Times from last week (http://www.policeone.com/gangs/articles/2050322-Dying-Chicago-teen-wouldnt-snitch-to-police-about-his-own-murderer/).
According to Chicago city police, few weeks ago, 17 year-old Robert Tate was shot in the chest as someone approached him on a sidewalk on the evening of April 12. Seeing that Tate was wounded badly and probably wouldn't make it, an officer asked, “Do you know who shot you?” Tate’s reported response? "I know, but I ain't telling you s---.” As astounding and extreme as this particular incident sounds, it’s hardly unique among young people today. In fact, and depending on one’s particular perspective, this mentality has been perpetuated—or maybe initiated—by high-profile Hip-Hop entertainers whose lyrics and off-stage lifestyles reinforce the importance of keeping what one knows about criminal acts from authorities. Consider the following:
- In a high-profile incident in 2005, rapper Lil Kim' was tried, convicted, and subsequently sentenced to 1 year in prison for obstruction of justice. The charge stemmed from her refusal to identify members of her entourage as assailants during a shootout in front of a radio station.
- Also in 2005, rapper Cam'ron's refusal to help police find the person who shot him during an attempted robbery gained him a great deal of respect among both his peers in the Hip-Hop community as well as the community at-large.
- In 2006, superstar rapper and sometimes actor Busta Rhymes' was threatened with arrest when he and fellow performer and Tony Yayo's refused to speak to police about the February 2006 murder of Rhymes' bodyguard Israel Ramirez at a video shoot.
The issues revolving the “don’t snitch” mentality are obvious. First is the lack of distinction in the title “snitch” itself. In many incidents similar to the aforementioned ones, the concept of “snitching” is often confused with “witnessing.” The concept that an individual should not tell what they know about a crime having been committed, even when the same individual is the victim of said crime, implies a level of complicity in the wrongdoing. For that reason, it suggest that “snitching” is in fact telling what one knows about a crime when one is involved to gain some kind of favor or personal benefit. On the other hand, witnessing is simply reporting wrongdoing for a greater good, which could be keeping crime levels in certain communities low so that the overall quality of life doesn’t suffer. Or, and of a more immediate benefit is the very real probability that reporting the victimization of one’s neighbors can assist in putting away community predators who could conceivably come back to victimize reluctant witnesses (anyway).
To Be Concluded...
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